Challenges and Opportunities

As we at Ford implement our global “ONE Ford” strategy, we are mindful that countries with different levels of economic and infrastructure development face different traffic safety challenges.

In the U.S. and other developed countries, traffic safety has significantly improved in recent years. Although the U.S. population has continued to increase, the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2009 reached its lowest level in 55 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If early projections from NHTSA for 2010 prove accurate, the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2010 will also decline. In fact, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has declined steadily since the late 1960s, and is now at the lowest level ever recorded. It declined to 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles in 2009, compared with 1.26 the year before. In the first half of 2010, the rate was 1.02.

Other developed countries have also seen improvements. The nonprofit Resources for the Future looked at traffic fatality data in 32 high-income countries between 1970 and 1999, and found that traffic fatalities declined in these countries by an average of 35 percent.

These improvements can be attributed to a combination of factors, including higher safety belt usage, advancements in vehicle safety technology, greater enforcement, better traffic infrastructure and increased cultural disapproval of driving under the influence.

Of course, traffic safety remains a significant challenge in these countries, with room for improvement. In the U.S. in 2009, more than 30,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. And, as discussed in depth in our case study, distracted driving is an important safety issue.

In developing countries, traffic safety is an acute public health problem. The World Bank reports that fatality rates in developing countries are 25 to 30 per 10,000 vehicles, compared to 1 to 2 per 10,000 vehicles in mature markets. Globally, nearly 1.3 million people die in traffic accidents. More than 1 million of those fatalities occur in countries with low- and middle-income economies. The World Health Organization estimates that deaths due to road traffic accidents will increase to 2.4 million in 2030, primarily owing to increased motor vehicle ownership and use associated with economic growth in low- and middle-income countries.

Many of the traffic deaths in developing nations involve pedestrians, cyclists and motor-driven cycles. As mobility increases in developing markets, people initially use two-wheeled motor vehicles, and the incidence of traffic accidents rises. As people migrate to automobiles, traffic accidents and injury levels generally decrease. During this transition, holistic solutions are required, including infrastructure improvements, the modification of road user behavior and the enforcement of traffic laws. One critical task is to educate drivers about the most important primary safety feature – safety belts.

In both developed and emerging markets, continued improvements in vehicle safety are also very important, and we at Ford continue to take seriously our responsibility to build safe vehicles.

Everywhere in the world, it is increasingly important for road safety stakeholders to work together using an integrated approach to any given safety initiative. To support this approach, we at Ford seek ways to partner with governments, nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders to identify the best opportunities to promote safety based on real-world data. We have become more involved in encouraging new and innovative ways to modify road user behavior (for example, through new technologies, driver education efforts and working with government agencies such as the UK Driving Standards Agency) and encouraging infrastructure and enforcement improvements in the communities in which we operate.