Stop the Crash

February 16, 2017

Safety features in new cars should be universal. This simple measure would save thousands of lives every year.

Road traffic deaths are now the 9th biggest killer globally, and are predicted to become the 7th biggest killer worldwide by 2030 unless urgent action is taken. Unsafe cars are a major contributor to this statistic. Consumer Council joined hands with Consumers International (CI) to campaign on STOP THE CRASH, calling for key crash avoidance technologies to be fitted as standard in all new cars and motorcycles, to help reduce deaths that occur every year from road crashes around the world.

Just as the United Nations General Assembly acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation is essential to the realization of all human rights, a new UN resolution also backs the rights of consumers to safe vehicles. The resolution puts consumer organisations in a stronger position to push for immediate action, holding governments and manufacturers accountable to the standards.

This commitment towards road safety is a significant milestone in the bid to reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads.

It will compel car manufacturers and governments to improve vehicle safety standards throughout the world by 2020.

According to Fiji Police Force, road accidents in Fiji have left many families devastated over the years. Apart from the massive loss of human life, these road accidents cause societal and economic damage. More than 578 lives have been lost on our roads since 2006, an average of 60 deaths in a year. These numbers are high for a country with a population of less than a million.

Government remains committed to keeping our roads safer. It allocated $60,000 for road safety awareness programmes and purchase of traffic management equipment, budgeted at $350,000. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) was allocated $230,000 in the 2016 national Budget to create awareness on road safety.

There is much road safety awareness work underway with police, LTA and road users working together. What is lacking is the engagement of the car dealers who import vehicles.

There has been no serious discussion on importing ‘safer’ vehicles to Fiji.

The big question is whether the cars imported into Fiji are safe. And specifically, are there any regulations in place that ensure minimum safety standards for car importers to comply?

Unfortunately, there is no such standard in place to ensure Fijian consumers get safe cars for the money they pay.

Car manufacturers make new cars based on importing countries’ standards. If the country has no standard, it is expected that the lifesaving technologies will not be there in new vehicles. Safety features take a backseat to profit, especially in those markets that might be described as economically disadvantaged.

In many low- and middle-income countries, the car companies save on production costs by selling new cars which lack basic safety features such as air bags. However, regulations/standards prevent such vehicles being sold in high-income countries.

Some vehicles sold in Fiji are not equipped with basic safety features such as airbags which can protect lives of car occupants in a crash.

Not all consumers question whether the vehicles they’re buying have safety features which would keep them and their loved ones safe.

To prevent the sale of unsafe vehicles across the globe, we need to set minimum standard that require at least the most basic safety features in vehicles.

The safety technologies that should be made mandatory are airbags, Automatic Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Airbags with the help of crash sensors will detect a frontal collision and trigger the bags to deflate immediately.

ABS alert the driver to an imminent crash and helps him/her to use the maximum braking capacity. The systems are designed to support the driver only in emergency situations where the driver remains responsible for the vehicle at all times.

ESC in particular is considered to be the most important vehicle safety development since the seat belt. It detects wheel speed, steering angle, sideways motion, and rotation. If the car drifts outside the driver’s intended path, the stability-control system momentarily brakes one or more wheels and, depending on the system, reduces engine power to pull the car back on course.

The global campaign is putting pressure on manufacturers to play a crucial role in reducing traffic fatalities and injuries. The Council hopes that the car companies in Fiji will demonstrate their concern for safety by playing a leading role in ensuring that new cars coming into Fiji has airbags to protect car occupants.