Road traffic injuries are a major but neglected public health challenge that requires concerted efforts for effective and sustainable prevention. Of all the systems with which people have to deal every day, road traffic systems are the most complex and the most dangerous. Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Projections indicate that these figures will increase by about 65% over the next 20 years unless there is new commitment to prevention. Nevertheless, the tragedy behind these figures attracts less mass media attention than other, less frequent types of tragedy.
It's true: despite great improvements in car safety over the years, road accidents are still a major cause of death everywhere in the world that has cars. So it's a subject worth taking a look at. And because that news item on Chinese prisoners being forced to play World of Warcraft got me thinking about China, we'll take a look at Chinese road safety.
The Euro NCAP does crash tests of commercially available cars and posts the results online, so we can see what we're getting into when we buy a car. As a starting example, here's the crash test video from a Volvo V70 estate. My dad drove one, or something very similar to it, and even though it was never crashed properly, one of the near-death situations in my life did occur in it when a lunatic in Finland ran a red light at very high speed, nearly hitting us.
To get an idea of how things are supposed to work, here's the Euro NCAP video of a Volvo V70 crash test:
As you can see, the essential features of modern car safety are functioning. There's airbags to cushion the impact, and most of the force of the collision is absorbed by the crumple zones of the car while the passenger compartment stays intact. The V70 got a five-star rating, out of a possible maximum of five.
Here, on the other hand, is a Chinese-made Brilliance BS6 in an Euro NCAP crash test.
As you can see, well, yeah. It got one star. In case you're wondering what you have to do to get no stars, here's the Jiangling Motors Landwind:
And if that wasn't frightening enough, here's an inside view:
And finally, an unidentified Chinese car being crashed into a barrier at 64 km/h in Russia.
I'm not in a position to offer any kind of advice on buying cars, but I will say this: there seems to be a rather large difference between a five-star rating and a no-star if-you-drive-this-you-are-going-to-die rating.