The United States and more than 20 nations have agreed on a new standard that is expected to lead to safer vehicles worldwide. The regulation, which was signed Thursday at the U.N. offices in Geneva, establishes the first global international vehicle safety standard.
The United Nations estimates that at least 1.2 million people are killed every year in road accidents around the world. It attributes most of these deaths to behavioral problems, such as speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol. But, countless thousands of deaths are a result of unsafe vehicles.
Jose Capel Ferrer heads the UN Economic Commission for Europe's Transport Division. He calls the newly adopted regulation, a milestone in road safety in the world and says it will save many lives. The European Union, Japan and the United States were among those agreeing to the measure. It is the first of what is hoped will be a system of global standards instead of allowing variations by country. Mr. Ferrer says the regulation is designed to improve door locks and door retention systems. He notes it will help prevent injury and death caused by passengers being ejected from their cars.
"We have to take into account that inadvertent door openings often happen by a combination of forces during crashes which result in structural failures in the latch system and in the hinges," said Jose Capel Ferrer. "And, as a result, occupants may be ejected, therefore causing injuries and deaths. The new global technical regulation will strengthen safety requirements and test procedures for vehicle doors, including sliding doors."
Mr. Capel Ferrer says this new standard will avoid such failures and therefore will avoid injury and deaths.
The United States sponsored this new regulation and played a leading role in developing the door retention standard. Jeffrey Runge is the U.S. Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He says it is impossible to know how many people around the world are ejected from their cars during accidents. However, data from the United States indicates that the global problem is huge. Dr. Runge says in the United States alone, about 42,000 door openings or failures occur every year.
"In the U.S., of 31,000, just over 31,000 occupant fatalities, there were 8,000 killed by ejection in the U.S.," he said. "Your chances of dying if you are ejected are about two thirds. So, you are much better off if you stay inside the vehicle. So, if it is true in the U.S. it is true everywhere that people should be inside the vehicle."
To go into effect, Thursday's agreement must be made national policy in the signatory nations, most likely through legislation. Once the standard is adopted, the countries will require it on every vehicle sold. Dr. Runge calls the new regulation a win-win situation for consumers. He says the new standard will improve the safety of vehicles and will bring down the cost of automobiles. The existence of one single standard, he says, will simplify and make the construction of vehicles cheaper.