Tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries could be avoided each year in the world if all countries would apply the safety standards outlined in the UN regulations developed by the World Forum for the Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The results of crash tests performed by the Global New Car Assessment Programme (Global NCAP) and its regional affiliates over the past years have shown that millions of new cars sold in middle- and low-income countries fail to meet the UN’s regulations for front and side crash tests. This means that the occupants of such vehicles face very serious risks of fatal injury in case of a crash. This problem is of particular concern across Latin America, which has a road fatality rate of 19.2 per 100,000 inhabitants (21 per 100,000 inhabitants in South America), almost double that of the U.S. (10.3/100.000 in 2013), and almost four times more than in the European Union (5.1/100.000 in 2014), according to the UNECE.

“We cannot accept that cars sold in middle and low income countries be deliberately less safe than those sold in developed countries,” said UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach. “I therefore call on the motor industry as a whole to ensure that well-established safety standards be applied to all vehicles sold worldwide. I also urge all UN member States to ratify and fully apply the UN legal instruments on road safety, in particular the UN technical regulations for the construction of vehicles. I invite all countries producing cars to join the World Forum and participate in the further development of regulations.”

Every year, 1.24 million people die on the world’s roads and some 50 million people are injured; 80 percent of the deaths take place in middle-income countries and 12 percent in low-income countries, even though together they count for approximately only half of the world’s vehicles, according to the UNECE.

“By the end of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) at the latest we want all new cars to meet basic standards for both crash protection and crash avoidance," said David Ward, Global NCAP Secretary General. "They must have crumple zones, air bags, and electronic stability control. Our latest report sets out 10 clear recommendations to meet this deadline, and we are convinced that this timetable is both realistic and affordable.”

For more than 50 years, the World Forum has negotiated and adopted UN vehicle regulations aimed at reinforcing car safety. These cover, among others:

  • The safety performance of vehicle for front and side impacts (UN Regulations Nos. 94 and 95).
  • Pedestrian safety (UN Regulation No. 127).
  • The safety of electric vehicles and their high-voltage batteries (UN Regulation No. 100).

The UN regulations developed by the World Forum for the Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations are available at: http://www.unece.org/trans/main/welcwp29.html