Much left to do for even safer heavy transports
It was a crowded conference hall when SAFER and NTF today organized a public seminar about safer heavy transports at Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg. Developments in the heavy traffic sector since 1997, when Vision Zero was established, shows fewer fatalities, despite an increased number of transports; 82 died in 1997 and 34 in 2017. The audience agreed that there is much left to do, for example in procurement of transports, leadership, self-evaluation, positive feedback and implementation of more systematic control, follow-up and training.
Today's focus was challenges and future opportunities in heavy road transports. The seminar was aimed at decision-makers in the industry, procurement of transport and others working with heavy traffic and safer road transports. The guests shared knowledge, discussed new perspectives, met with experts and colleagues. The day was opened by Anna Nilsson-Ehle, the chair of Lindholmen Science Park and NTF. She highlighted the positive technology development and how automation, connectivity and infrastructure will continue to contribute to safer traffic.
Reduced speed gives the most effect
Maria Krafft from the Swedish Transport Administration presented which action that has the best effect on reducing the number of fatalities in traffic and it was - not quite unexpectedly - a reduced speed.
- If all drivers kept the speed limit, Sweden would have 40-50% fewer fatalities due to traffic accidents. And if everyone lowered their speed only with 1 km/h, 15 lives could be saved per year, only in Sweden, Maria said.
Good role models are needed
The seminar also discussed the importance of having good role models; major procurers need to get in the forefront and make clearer demands on road safety. Consumers need to take more space. It also applies to everyone; you should not have to accept being driven by a taxi that exceeds the speed limit. Also NTF's director generale Marie Nordén confirms that speeding is a big problem and confirms that a major effort in this area will be made by NTF in the near future.
Safe driving gives no immediate reward
SAFER's researcher Christina Stave from VTI gave an interesting presentation about safety culture and behavior in traffic. She believes that a risky behavior can be explained by how the human brain is programmed; a more risky driving style gives a quick reward, which the brain experiences positively, while a safe driving style does not actually give any direct stimulus, or reward. Common reasons why you drive too fast are, among other things, stress and that it is normalized to drive too fast.
The seminar also discussed the risks that the driver profession is dipping in status and a concrete proposal for an action is to be better at giving positive feedback to good drivers.
Fatigue is fatal
It is quick to fall asleep behind the wheel.
"In four seconds you can go from being alert to drive off the road," says SAFER's researcher Mikael Ljung Aust.
Fatigue is a huge problem, and hard to do something about because you cannot predict if and when you get tired and risk falling asleep. Underlying mechanisms are usually how you have slept in the last 72 hours, how long you have been awake and if you are in a general, natural "dip", for example after eating.
Mikael tells us that Volvo Cars’ Driver Alert Control, which warns drivers when they're too tired to drive a car, works great. The function is almost always correct and warns the driver when he or she is tired. But getting the driver to actually take a break is more difficult. Mikael told about SAFER's new project MeBeSafe in which the researchers try to find a solution by nudging principles:
- In this project, we will test different reward systems to get the driver to take a break and rest. One idea that we will evaluate is to offer coffee, an offer that is active maybe 10 minutes after the driver has received a warning.
The seminar held at Lindholmen Science Park today is the first in a series of four, further seminars on the theme will be held in Sundsvall, Helsingborg and Örebro in the spring. Participants also get the opportunity to join a Facebook group to continue discussing the issue and follow up with further meetings in the fall. The aim is to continue exchanging experiences and highlighting positive examples.