Bringing All Cars Up to the Safest Standards

By 2020, Global NCAP's goal is for all new cars to meet the UN crash test regulations with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control fitted as standard.

The Global New Car Assessment Programme is trying to bring about a monumental change in road safety around the world, in support of the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, which aims to reduce the deaths in road crashes that have been forecasted for 2020 by 50 percent.

The push is twofold. Max Mosley, the chairman of Global NCAP, wrote a letter in July to the CEOs of the global vehicle manufacturers in which he asked them to commit voluntarily to improve minimum safety standards in cars sold worldwide. Global NCAP, a nonprofit, also is supporting the development of new consumer crash test programs in emerging markets.

"Car production is exceeding 60 million units annually due to rapid growth in car sales in emerging markets where road injury has become a major public health concern," he wrote. "However, we estimate that as many as 20 million of these vehicles are likely to fail the UN’s minimum crash test standards. Consumer crash testing in emerging markets, for example undertaken by Latin NCAP, confirms disturbingly poor levels of occupant protection in some best-selling models."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently published an article about Global NCAP in its Status Report that discussed the differences between the safety performance of cars sold in emerging markets and those sold in the United States, Europe, and Australia. For example, strong occupant compartments and crumple zones to absorb crash energy are not found in "many vehicles built for the burgeoning middle class in markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico," the article stated, adding that front airbags typically are optional equipment, although they have been standard in U.S. vehicles since 1999.

Based in London, Global NCAP was created during the 22nd Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) conference in Washington, D.C., in June 2011. IIHS and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration both are Global NCAP members.

Saying one-third of the 60 million new cars that were sold worldwide in 2011 did not comply with the United Nations’ Regulation 94 for protecting occupants from a frontal crash because they lacked airbags, anti-lock brakes, or electronic stability control, Global NCAP Secretary General David Ward called this situation "astounding in a period of extraordinary globalization and growth for the auto industry." He spoke in May 2013, when both Global NCAP's annual meeting and the 23rd ESV conference -- jointly organized by NHTSA and Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport -- were held in Seoul, South Korea.

Pursuing the 2020 Goal
By 2020, Global NCAP's goal is for all new cars to meet the UN crash test regulations with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control fitted as standard.

The annual meeting on May 30 involved all NCAP organizations active worldwide. During it, Global NCAP adopted the Seoul Declaration, which encourages consumers to choose five-star vehicles whenever possible and calls on automakers to commit to set a floor of minimum safety standards for their vehicles.

The organization's second annual safety awards were presented. The winners were Euro NCAP, for its pioneering role in consumer crash testing and for contributing to the significant reduction in deaths and injuries in the European Union during the past 16 years, and three individuals who made a substantial contribution to Euro NCAP's creation: Adrian Hobbs, formerly of the UK's Transport Research Laboratory, Keith Rogers, and Maurice Eaton, formerly of the UK's Department for Transport.

Volvo Car Corp. won Global NCAP's Innovation Award this year for advancements it made to improve the protection for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, including the pedestrian airbag introduced on the Volvo V40 and the company's pedestrian detection system. Presenting the award to Professor Lotta Jakobsson of Volvo, Ward noted that about half of the 1.2 million people killed on roads worldwide each year are these vulnerable road users. He said Volvo's work "is exactly the kind of innovation needed to ensure the Decade of Action achieves meaningful results."

For more information, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/ESV and http://www.globalncap.org/.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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