What can vehicle design contribute ?

Vehicle design is fundamental to a safe traffic system which requires safe interaction between users, vehicles and the road environment. Vehicle design, which takes account of the behavioural and physical limitations of road users, can address a range of risk factors and help to reduce exposure to risk, crash involvement and crash injury severity. To date, vehicle engineering for improved safety has usually been directed towards modifying a vehicle to help the driver avoid a crash, or to protect those inside in the event of a crash. Recently, attention in Europe has been given to crash protective design for those outside the vehicle.


Key system risk factors


Vehicles and equipments



traffic system use

too early access to driving or riding a motor vehicle

availability of high performance motor vehicles

poor land-use planning, user mix


crash occurrence

speeding, impairment

poor lighting, braking, handling, speed management

poor road design or layout, absence of speed limits and pedestrian facilities


injury during the crash

non-use of restraints or helmets

poor crash protective design

absence of forgiving roadside (e.g. crash barriers)


post crash injury

poor access to care

poor evacuation

absence of rescue facility


A review of the effectiveness of casualty reduction measures in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996 found that the greatest contribution to casualty reduction was secondary safety or crash protection in vehicles. This accounted for around 15% of the reduction, compared with 11% for drink-drive measures and 6.5% for road safety engineering measures [14].


Major improvements in vehicle safety design have taken place over the last decade in Europe leading to a large reduction in fatal and serious injury risk amongst car occupants. These results are due to a combination of the effects of new European legislative crash protection standards and the impact of new consumer information systems providing objective data on the performance of cars in state of the art crash tests and real crashes.


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