In-Vehicle Technology to Reduce Road Traffic Incidents

A 2013 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted that 1.24 million people die every year from road traffic incidents (RTI) and 50 million are injured.[1] Traffic accidents are the second biggest killer of children (5-14 years) and young people (15-29 years).[2] Projections suggest that they will be the seventh largest cause of all death by 2030,[3] and third in the league table for burden of disease.[4] In response, the General Assembly of the United Nations called for “effective international collaboration on road safety issues”. The Global Status Report on Road Safety (2013) identifies an inverted U-shaped curve for road traffic fatalities by stage of economic development: 20.1 per 100,000 population in middle-income countries, 8.3 per 100,000 in high-income countries, and 18.3 per 100,000 in low-income countries.[1]

A number of interventions have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. Cars can be made safer by standard engineering solutions, such as seat belts and airbags.[5] Civil engineering projects include ‘traffic calming’ and street lighting.[6] Enforcement diminishes driving while intoxicated and reduces speed. Various behavioural techniques, such as roadside speedometers and encouraging passenger activism are also effective.[7] [8] However, many of these interventions, such as road improvement, are expensive and cannot be implemented quickly.

In-vehicle technologies offer considerable promise in many ways. First, they can be used to report crash data autonomously to a remote computer and hence identify crash ‘hot spots’ and contribute to the evaluation of interventions. Second, they can alert the police and emergency services that a crash has occurred, where it occurred, and expectations of serious injuries.[9] Third, they can provide a record of driver behaviour for driver feedback or for rewards or sanctions, such as decreased/increased insurance premiums. Fourth, they may incorporate driver warning functions to alert the driver when speed limits are breached or when potential hazards, such as a cyclist in the driver’s blind spot, are present. Fifth, they can take control of a vehicle in an emergency, for example to rectify drift towards opposing traffic when the driver is fatigued or distracted. The first three uses are telematic and the fourth and fifth are generally referred to as driver assistance functions.

We hypothesise that the dismal extrapolation in the Global Status Report cited above can be ameliorated if telematic and driver assistance technology is implemented in a way that is psychologically, socially, and technically appropriate. We have therefore formed an international collaboration with the University of Michigan Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan, The Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, and the DY Patil University in Mumbai to adapt and evaluate this technology in middle-income countries.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director
— Chetan Trivedy, Academic Clinical Lecturer in Emergency Medicine, University of Warwick


  1. World Health Organization. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a Decade of Action. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2013
  2. World Health Organization. World Report on road traffic in jury prevention. Ed. Peden M, Scurfield R, Sleet D, Mohan D, Hyder AA, Jarawan E, Mathers C. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2004
  3. World Health Organization. Projections of mortality and causes of death, 2015 and 2030. [Online]. 2011.
  4. World Health Organization. The Global Burden of Disease. 2004 Update. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2008.
  5. Cummings P, McKnight B, Rivara FP, Grossman DC. Association of driver airbags with driver fatality: a matched cohort study. BMJ. 2002; 324: 1119-22.
  6. Kjemtrup K, Herrdtedt L. Speed management and traffic calming in urban areas in Europe: a historical view. Accident Anal Prev. 1992; 24(1): 57-65.
  7. Pilkington P, Kinra S. Effectiveness of speed cameras in preventing road traffic collisions and related road casualties. BMJ. 2005; 330: 331-4.
  8. Habyarimana J, Jack W. Heckle and Chide: Results of a randomized road safety intervention in Kenya. J Public Econ. 2011: 95; 1438-46.
  9. Road Safety Observatory Review. Synthesis title: Telematics. 2013.

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