Volvo sheds light on global road safety, but South Africa's death figures are dark, scary
• Volvo invented the three-pointed seatbelt more than 60 years ago.
• Countless lives have been saved by wearing one.
• Volvo is committed to reducing the death toll figure on the world's roads.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
Did you know that, 61 years ago, Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt?
Back then, media and public reacted quite negatively to the new device, slandering it as useless and calling it "a violation of human rights".
One outlet even said that "wearing a seatbelt is a terrible idea."
The seatbelt, perhaps strange at the time, has gone on to save countless over the next six decades. And in 2020, the Swedish automaker took the fight to road safety a step further by introducing speed limits on all its new cars. Even more, Volvo will add in-car cameras to prevent intoxicated and distracted driving.
Road safety is everyone's business
Volvo hosted an online webinar from its head office in Sweden and had several speakers attending the event via video call. The discussions centred around road safety and how various parts of the world are heeding the call for safer roads.
The topics ranged from children and teenagers' roles in reducing road fatalities to road users being the mouthpieces to raise awareness on this grave concern. During the event, one of the speakers noted that more than 1.3 million people die on global roads. Even scarier is that road fatality is the biggest cause of death for those aged between 5 and 29.
In 1997, Sweden introduced Vision Zero. This plan of action aims to one day have zero people killed in traffic-related incidents. 23 years ago, in 1997, road deaths in Sweden were around 600 per year. At the end of 2019, that figure had shrunk to about 200 deaths per year.
By having impactful road safety campaigns and working tirelessly with children and families, the Swedish government and privateers, like Volvo, are making significant inroads in decreasing road deaths. And yes, the seatbelt has had a significant role to play.
Seatbelt (Getty Images)
The South African conundrum
Sadly, the South African road safety situation is a dire one. In 2019, president Cyril Ramaphosa said that around 14 000 people die on our roads annually - one of the highest, and scariest, figures in the world.
Last year, over the 2019/20 festive season alone, 1390 died on South African roads. Yes, it was down 3% compared to the same period in 2018/9 (1438 deaths), but it is incredibly worrisome when compared to countries like Sweden.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula spoke on the 2019/20 figures, saying: "Our analysis further demonstrates that the main causes of fatal crashes over this period were pedestrians, single-vehicle overturning, hit and run and head-on collisions. The majority of road users, who died on the roads, were pedestrians (40%), passengers (34%), drivers (25%) and cyclists (1%)."
Volvo South Africa is all too aware of the local situation. Luckily, the South African arm's product portfolio will benefit from the same technologies as our global peers.
Do you think it is possible for South Africa to drastically reduce its road fatality figure? If so, which steps would you impose to achieve this goal? Email us.
An accident scene (Getty Images)
Road safety tips
Given that South Africa has its own unique set of challenges when it comes to road safety, the Automobile Association (AA) notes several tips on how we can help decrease the carnage on South African roads:
• Wear a seatbelt, and ensure all passengers are also buckled up.
• Secure children under three years of age in proper child restraint seats. It's the law.
• Check your tyres (including the spare) to ensure they are in good condition and safe. Worn tyres are potentially fatal.
• Prepare for a long trip by getting enough rest before leaving. Also rest every 200km or every two hours to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
• Don't speed, and drive to the conditions of the road you are travelling on.
• Drive sober. Alcohol and drugs and walking and driving are a deadly combination.
• If you are a pedestrian, make yourself visible and walk in properly lit areas. Also, cross busy roads at the designated crossing lanes, and never walk on, or cross over, a highway.
• Pay attention while driving. Distracted driving is extremely dangerous. Put your cellphone away and keep it in the car only for emergencies.
• Be courteous to other drivers.
Read the original article here.