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Bosch calls for safer roads in Southeast Asia


Traffic congestion on Anawrahta Road in downtown Yangon. Photo: Mizzima

Bosch believes that more can be done to improve road safety in Southeast Asia. Each year, there are approximately 63,000 reported road traffic deaths in the ASEAN member countries, although the World Health Organization believes that the actual number lies at around 117,000 per year due either to inaccurate data or undocumented accidents. Within the region, there is considerable variation in fatality rates between the individual countries. While Singapore has one of the fewest traffic-related deaths worldwide per capita, Thailand has one of the most, second only to Libya. The Philippines has the second-lowest road traffic fatality rate in the region after Singapore.

“We need to find sustainable solutions for a problem that is the leading death cause among young people in the region, taking the lives of thousands of citizens, and costing the governments a tremendous amount of money, every year,” said Martin Hayes, president of Bosch in Southeast Asia in a keynote address at the EU-ASEAN Business Summit in Manila, the Philippines on March 17. “The loss of lives, and cost of damage to property and safety reputation pose an extensive threat to the social and economic progress of the ASEAN member countries.”

ASEAN member countries’ leaders have taken progressive steps to address the threat that traffic accidents present to the health and welfare of their citizens, andto their economies. In November 2015, transport ministers of the economic bloc adopted the ASEAN Regional Road Safety Strategy which provides a framework of strategies and actions to halve the number of road fatalities in the region by 2020. The strategy also received the commitment of the economic ministers of ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community Council in February 2017, who will also be working towards improving road safety policies and programs, and harmonizing the region’s safety regulations in line with UN regulations. The UN General Assembly has proclaimed the period from 2011 to 2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety with the goal to stabilize and reduce the level of road traffic fatalities around the world.

“For Bosch, every traffic-related death is one too many,” said Hayes. “As an automotive supplier, we believe that the most substantial impact the auto industry can make is to produce safer vehicles equipped with modern safety systems.”

For decades now, Bosch has been working on technological advancements with the vision of accident-free driving. The world’s first antilock braking system (ABS) for passenger cars, the commonplace technology that prevents a car’s wheels from locking up during an emergency braking scenario, dates back to 1978. This innovation allows the driver to maintain steering control and in most situations, shortens the braking distance without skidding. In 1995, Bosch improved the technology by developing the world’s first electronic stability program (also known as ESP or ESC) which is today equipped in 64 percent of all new cars worldwide. In Europe alone, ESP has saved more than 8,500 lives and prevented more than a quarter of a million traffic accidents to date.

As the third-largest two-wheeler market in the world, riders of a motorcycle constitute more than half of all road traffic fatalities in Southeast Asia. Every year, 21,000 fatal motorcycle accidents occur in Indonesia and Thailand alone. A key technology to enhance motorcycle safety is ABS, which enables hard braking without the wheels locking, so that the vehicle remains stable and the rider stays upright. Introduced in 1995, the motorcycle ABS significantly reduces the risk of falling, shortens the stopping distance, and therefore the risk of collision. Bosch research estimates that if every powered two-wheeler was equipped with ABS, around one in four of all motorcycle accidents in the ASEAN countries could be prevented. Worldwide, an increasing number of countries such as the European Union, Japan, Taiwan, and India are mandating motorcycle ABS for new vehicles.

“It is the governments that play a crucial role in the adoption of safety systems. Legislative measures to mandate safety features have been introduced in nearly all developed and many developing countries all over the world,” said Hayes.

Countries that have yet to make safety features such as ABS, ESC, and Motorcycle ABS mandatory – neither in passenger cars nor in motorcycles – can be found in Africa, some parts of South America, the Middle East, and most of Southeast Asia. To date, Malaysia is the first and only ASEAN member country to mandate all new cars to be equipped with ESC from 2018 onwards.

Vehicles with high safety standards, equipped with airbags, ESC, or ABS for instance, do not only protect passengers, they also help local manufacturers realize export opportunities into major automotive markets. “It is our view that governments should have a strong interest in promoting these safety features if they want to develop ASEAN into a world-class automotive manufacturing hub that is globally competitive, and can contribute positively to the economic and social progress of the region,” said Hayes.

“The improvement of road safety is not something that will happen overnight. We understand that it’s a gradual process that needs the involvement of various stakeholders including governments, the scientific community, NGOs, and the industry,” concluded Hayes.

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