Facts that save lives

Over a period of four decades, Volvo Trucks’ department for accident research, ART, (Accident Research Team) has built up a unique bank of expertise that is unsurpassed in the truck industry.
image text: Volvo Trucks Accident Research Team (ART)

“The results of our work are integrated into every new safety solution that Volvo Trucks presents. Our investigations pinpoint the problems and highlight the direction for the engineers whose job it is to develop the necessary technology,” says Anna Wrige, director of the Accident Research Team.
ART has carried out more than 1,500 investigations of truck accidents over the years. This has generated a database of expertise that is invaluable in Volvo's safety work. Alongside this, cooperation with other countries and authorities has resulted in an exchange of information at an advanced scientific level. Volvo's research has thus helped boost the safety level of commercial vehicles the world over.

Focus on active safety
The purpose of the Accident Research Team's work is to improve both passive and active safety. Research into passive safety aims at making the consequences of an accident as mild as possible, whereas active safety puts the focus on avoiding accidents in the first place.

"We've come a long way regarding passive safety in trucks. Now the focus is on active safety and the prevention of accidents. Not least because we know that the human factor lies behind as many as nine out of ten accidents," says Anna Wrige.

Three basic issues
In principle, the group's working methods can be explained with the help of three questions: What do the accident sequences look like? Why did the accidents happen? What can be done to prevent accidents?

"Our aim is to identify and document the main causes of accidents. This information gives us a clear picture of the major safety challenges involved in modern traffic. However, Volvo Trucks alone cannot solve these problems. What is needed is well-developed cooperation between all the parties concerned - vehicle manufacturers, safety organisations and society," explains Anna Wrige.

A selection of all data
The accident team's archives contain both well-known and less well-known data, such as:

  • Only 10 to 15 percent of all those killed or seriously injured in truck accidents are actually in the truck. Between 55 and 65 percent are in cars and between 20 and 30 percent are unprotected road users.
  • In a frontal impact between a truck and a car, in nine out of ten cases it is the car driver who has strayed onto the wrong side of the road.
  • Single-vehicle accidents in which the truck rolls over or drives off the road account for half of all fatalities or serious injuries in truck-related accidents.
  • 20 percent of all single-vehicle truck accidents are caused by driver drowsiness.

Interaction with unprotected road users
The Accident Research Team's material also includes data about many accidents that could probably have been avoided through increased interaction between the truck driver and vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

"We have considerable responsibility for giving truck drivers the best possible all-round visibility. This is being tackled with better mirrors and cameras. However, it is also important that other road users learn to appreciate how hard it is for truck drivers to see them from their high, screened-off position," says Anna Wrige.

In operation since 1969
Volvo's Accident Research Team turns 40 in 2009. The ART, initially called the Commission for Accident Investigation, was founded in 1969 to investigate and increase knowledge about truck accidents involving physical injury.

Then, like today, the team members took turns being on call to attend accident sites in the Göteborg area in order to investigate and document accidents. Accidents further away from Göteborg are also studied, but only after the event. A key part of the investigation process is talking to the truck drivers to find out how they perceived the accident and the situation immediately preceding it.

"The research initially focused on the truck's occupants. Nowadays we work from an overall perspective that includes everyone involved in the accidents we document," concludes Anna Wrige.

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