A fundamentally positive trend regarding accident statistics

01 Jun 2018 News & Campaigns
The current situation and various future scenarios present a whole host of road safety challenges – especially when it comes to trucks and vans. With the rise in mileage covered by heavy-duty commercial vehicles in particular, the likelihood of individuals being involved in an accident increases, as does the importance for accidents in general. Nevertheless, the general trend is positive: Thanks to the considerable progress made by manufacturers in developing driver assistance systems, the number of road users killed in accidents involving commercial vehicles has decreased significantly in recent years across the EU. While 7,233 people died in accidents involving commercial vehicles in 2006, by 2015 this figure had fallen by over 47 percent to 3,848 according to latest figures from the European Commission. This figure represents around 15 percent of all deaths caused by road traffic in the EU – a figure that has remained more or less constant over recent years. Over the same period, the USA saw an almost 20-percent decline in road deaths from 5,027 to 4,067. In Germany, such figures have declined by around 34 percent from 1,197 to 787; in 2016, statistics specified 745 deaths in accidents involving goods transport vehicles, which equates to a further decrease of 4 percent.
Overall, the number of people involved in accidents is relatively low, especially when one considers the number of kilometers that vehicles cover. This is illustrated by figures published by the German Federal Statistical Office: In 2016, German police registered 308,145 road accidents resulting in personal injury – 211,460 of these were caused by car drivers, while commercial vehicle drivers were responsible for 19,022 such accidents. According to information provided by the Federal Motor Transport Authority, car drivers in Germany covered 625.5 billion kilometers in 2016, while commercial vehicle drivers covered 80.5 billion kilometers. This means that, in 2016, car drivers were involved in an accident resulting in personal injury every 2.96 million kilometers, while commercial vehicle drivers were involved in such an accident every 4.23 million kilometers.
But whenever goods transport vehicles are involved in accidents causing personal injury, a disproportionate number of these accidents result in fatalities. This can be attributed to the higher mass and lower level of compatibility of goods transport vehicles compared with other road users. Another hazard presented by large and heavy-duty goods transport vehicles is that the vehicle dimensions mean that large areas are hidden from the view of drivers. Pedestrians and cyclists are at especially high risk here.

Maintaining and strengthening this high level of safety

The generally positive trend can be attributed to a variety of measures. The aforementioned driver assistance systems play a role in this trend, with commercial vehicles taking the lead here. Technologies such as electronically controlled braking and emergency braking systems were deployed in this vehicle category first before being offered as optional extras in cars. The effectiveness of these systems cannot be disputed. Together with the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for Commercial Transport, Postal Logistics and Telecommunication and Kravag insurance, the Federal Road Haulage Association conducted a field test involving 1000 vehicles and proved that trucks equipped with driver assistance systems are 34 percent less likely to be involved in an accident than similar reference vehicles. However, it is currently possible for drivers to disable these systems manually. Whether this is in the interests of road safety is rightly the subject of intense discussion. After all, what is the point of a system that is offine in an emergency? This is a question that is explored in detail in the Vehicle Technology section of this report.
The same applies to the ever-increasing level of connectivity among commercial vehicles with not only the surrounding infrastructure but also each other. Connectivity will be a key feature in the vehicles of tomorrow. Linking multiple trucks to form a “platoon” is just one of the pioneering concepts for future goods transportation and marks an important step toward automated driving. The aim of this technology i is to make road traffic more efficient and safer and to lighten the burden on professional drivers.
In addition to vehicle technology and the issue of infrastructure covered in this report, commercial vehicle drivers play an absolutely central role in road safety. Given that almost 90 percent of all accidents in Europe can be attributed to human error, it is crucial that professional drivers are made aware of this issue. The European “professional driver” directive 2003/59/EC of July 15, 2003, “on the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers” has had an extremely positive impact in this regard. But there is still much work to be done in this area, a fact addressed in a separate section of this report.
To enhance the road safety of goods transport vehicles in particular, it is ultimately critical for multiple factors to interact efficiently. The potential of a truck or van optimized with vehicle technology and equipped with every driver assistance system available can only be optimally utilized if the infrastructure or road conditions are suitable, networking concepts function and the person behind the wheel performs their task reliably. To relieve the burden on our roads, new approaches are required for dealing with combined traffic. The importance of each of these points forms the focus of this eleventh DEKRA Road Safety Report.