13 Feb 2014
Global NCAP joins Economist discussion on road safety

The Economist has joined the discussion of vehicle safety standards in emerging markets. The influential international magazine has published a letter from Global NCAP’s secretary general David Ward explaining the role that vehicle safety standards must play in the development of new vehicle markets.

SIR — Your leader on what to do about the rise in road deaths in the developing world was wrong to suggest that “strict vehicle standards are pricey” (“Reinventing the wheel”, January 25th). Vehicle safety is affordable and more achievable than ever before. The UN has a framework of minimum safety standards, including front and side crash tests, that are not costly to implement: the frontal-impact standard can be passed simply by adding an airbag on the driver’s side.

It is now also far less expensive to provide car-body shells that will protect passengers in a crash at the standard test speed of 56kph (35mph). These improvements are achievable at unit costs of less than $100 and will become even cheaper as economies of scale are gained in a globalised industry.

Frankly, it is scandalous that any new cars are being built below these standards, but this is all too common in rapidly motorising developing countries, where the UN regulations are often not applied. Our partner car-assessment programmes in Asia and Latin America continue to find substandard “zero-star” cars in their independent crash tests.

Hopefully by the end of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety all new passenger cars will meet the minimum crash-test standards. That really will help to reinvent the wheel.

David Ward
Global New Car Assessment Programme

Read the letter – and see more of the Economist’s discussion of road safety here