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Safety
March 04, 2019

We need to talk about speeding

Volvo s60
We all know the dangers involved around spiders, snakes and heights. But when it comes to speeding, our danger recognition skills as humans are remarkably lacking. Time for us at Volvo Cars to send a signal – we are a leader in automotive safety after all.

The female black widow spider should be avoided at all costs, because she is one toxic lady. The same applies to a king cobra or a python. And when you stand on top of a ridge or a tall building, you know you should stay clear of the edge. It is basic human instinct in action: here is danger, avoid.

 

The interesting thing is that this same human instinct often fails us when it comes to speeding. As a result, every year too many people get seriously injured or even killed because of excessive speeding in their cars. According to NHTSA, 25 per cent of all traffic fatalities in the US in 2017 were caused by speeding. For our company, with our ambitious safety Vision 2020, that is a worry.

So today, we are sending a strong signal. From 2020, we will limit the top speed in all our cars to 180 kph. We are also actively investigating how a combination of smart speed control and geofencing technology could automatically make cars stick to the speed limit around schools and hospitals.

 

« We all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much. We need to support better behaviour and help people realise that speeding is dangerous. »

Jan Ivarsson

Senior Technical Advisor Safety, Volvo Cars

“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver´s behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” said our CEO Håkan Samuelsson. “We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”

That speed cap of 180 kph in itself will not be a life-saver (although if we can save one life, it is worth doing). But we do want to make people think. About the impact that speeding can have, about our inability to adjust our speed to the traffic situation at all times.

Clearly, legal speed limits are not enough. They are in place in most western countries, but millions of people still get speeding tickets every year. Many of us simply do not recognise the danger involved in speed, says Jan Ivarsson, one of our leading safety experts.

“We all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much,” says Jan. “People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaption in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver. We need to support better behaviour and help people realise and understand that speeding is dangerous.”

For our Vision 2020, which aims for no one to be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020, this matters. Research by our Safety Centre has identified three remaining concerns for safety that constitute so-called ‘gaps’ towards zero, with speeding a very prominent one.

Beyond speeding, two other problem areas constitute ‘gaps toward zero’. As obvious a problem as speeding (and as difficult to end) is intoxication. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in large parts of the world, yet it remains a prime reason for traffic injuries and fatalities.

The other area is distraction. Drivers distracted by their mobile phones or otherwise not fully engaged in driving are another major cause of traffic fatalities. In many ways, they are equally dangerous as drunk drivers.

When it comes to those two areas, we also have ideas as to how they should be tackled. But we will reveal more in about two weeks from now, during a special safety event in Sweden.

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