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How speed limiters will make driving safer

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From 2020 onwards, it will no longer be possible to drive Volvos faster than 180 kilometres per hour. In order to improve safety, the Swedish car brand is going to build in a speed limiter. Will other manufacturers follow their lead? If a group of MEPs get their way, they certainly will.

In Belgium, one car accident in three is caused by excessive speed. Along with distraction and intoxication, speed is therefore one of the main causes of car accidents and traffic deaths. In order to reduce the number of deaths or serious injuries in a new Volvo to zero from 2020, the Swedish car manufacturer is building in a speed limitation of 180 kilometres per hour in all its new cars. In this way, Volvo hopes to stimulate debate about speed limits.

Safety technology

“We realize that a speed limit is not a miracle cure, but if we save just a single life with it, then it will have been worthwhile”, says CEO Håkan Samuelsson. Volvo also wants to deploy other technologies: the car manufacturer is exploring whether in future, the speed of cars can be automatically limited in the vicinity of schools and hospitals. This is tricky, because everywhere in Europe there are different speed limits, and there has not yet been sufficient digital mapping of these.

Other car manufacturers are also building in safety technology. These days, airbags are fitted as standard, and some vehicles are equipped with an anti-collision or automatic engine shutdown system. In some cars, cruise control allows the driver to set their own speed limit. Insurers also recommend these sorts of systems, because they quite simply make driving safer.

European measures

At the same time, a group of MEPs has proposed that by 2022, car manufacturers should be obliged to equip all new cars with Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA). That is a speed limiter based on a speed recognition camera and/or GPS-linked speed limit data that makes it almost impossible for drivers to drive faster than the permitted speed. Lane change assistance and automatic emergency braking systems are other obligatory safety measures that are being proposed by MEPs.

Essentially, ISA is a system with which drivers can only speed up by pressing down hard on the accelerator. This means that it is still possible to accelerate for a short period in a dangerous situation. Warning signals on the dashboard alert the driver until the car has once again slowed down to the maximum speed. Today, many new cars are already fitted with this kind of system.

Digital database

It is estimated that this measure could reduce the number of traffic deaths in Europe by 20%, and prevent no less than 25,000 deaths on European roads over a fifteen-year period. However, it is only possible to make it compulsory to build in ISA if all European countries have created an accurate digital database of their traffic signs. According to Vias institute, the Belgian institute for traffic safety, this may take another five to ten years in Belgium.

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