The FINANCIAL -- When ranked amongst
all causes of death, traffic-related fatalities have moved from tenth
place in 1990 to eighth place in 2010, and will be the fifth biggest
cause of death by 2030, Allianz reported on this in the Allianz Risk
Pulse on Mobility and Road Safety Trends. Around 41% of all fatalities
in traffic accidents globally are cyclists or pedestrians.
Nevertheless, there are still too few cyclists wearing helmets, believes Allianz, a German multinational financial services company. Regardless of age, the percentage of people in Germany wearing a helmet stands at just 11%. Helmets are not seen as cool, they are an irritation, you have to carry them around, and they don’t actually prevent collisions between cyclists and motorists.
But they are very effective in avoiding severe head injuries, according to the Allianz report, which notes that over 40% of serious cycling accidents result in serious head injuries. "The probability of suffering brain damage without a helmet is over double that for someone wearing a helmet," says Moser.
Yet very few countries have made helmet wearing compulsory. One of these is Finland. Some US states have regulations targeted at children and young people. In most countries, however, the compulsory wearing of helmets is a political issue. Each new law expands the remit of the authorities and some people object to that intrusion, according to Allianz.
Others point out that compulsory helmets won’t prevent accidents happening in the first place. Many argue for lower speed limits and restrictions on heavy vehicles in towns and cities, as well as more dedicated bicycle lanes. However, if cycle lanes do not exist, if reckless road use is common, and if there is limited cooperation between road-users, technology must be part of the answer.
"Allianz aims to promote the establishment of an internationally harmonized testing standard for the future, which reflects the most significant real-life accident scenarios for pedestrians," says Christoph Lauterwasser, head of the AZT.
How would it work? Experts distinguish between passive and active protection systems. The passive systems include installations on the car itself which relate to the characteristic points of impact for the head, the windshield and the hood. Technicians are currently looking into using the hood as a crumple zone and external airbags, according to Allianz.
The active systems include sensor and radar systems which can recognize pedestrians and cyclists in conditions of low visibility, and trigger an emergency brake or warning. To do this, the systems have to learn to differentiate between, say, trees and human beings, or between people waiting for a bus at the side of the road and someone about to cross the road.
The developers of airbags, ABS, ESP and other driver assistance systems have already proven that such complex challenge can be successfully overcome, thereby improving road safety, according to Allianz. In Germany, the number of fatal incidents among motorized road-users decreased from over 12,000 in 1953 to less than 4,000 in 2010. At the same time, the number of cars on the roads increased from 4.8 million to over 52 million.