Nº 4 2013 > Laureates of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award
Laureate Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation, represented by Ambassador Alexandre Fasel
Switzerland's programme to reduce road deaths
President Ueli Maurer of the Swiss Confederation, a winner of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award 2013, was represented at the award ceremony at ITU headquarters on 17 May by Ambassador Alexandre Fasel, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Office of the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Maurer, Ambassador Fasel conveyed the President’s thanks for the award conferred on him — an award, which he said, also honours Switzerland as a whole. He recalled that the period 2011–2020 had been declared Decade of Action for Road Safety by the United Nations General Assembly and congratulated ITU on having selected the theme “ICTs and Improving Road Safety” to mark this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day and paid tribute to the work the Union is accomplishing.
“Information and communication technologies are now heralding the emergence of innovative solutions in the area of road safety which were unimaginable not very long ago. I am thinking, in particular, of communication between vehicles, between vehicles and infrastructure and also the so-called ‘intelligent’ car, which can drive itself entirely safely, and which manufacturers tell us could be ready by the end of the decade,” said Ambassador Fasel. But he also acknowledged that there are instances where the use of ICT may impair road safety. This is the case, for example, when people make telephone calls, consult their smartphones or send each other SMS messages while driving.
Ambassador Fasel then went on to briefly outline the priorities that Swiss authorities are currently pursuing in their road-safety policy. As Switzerland does not produce cars, he focused on how the Swiss authorities plan to effectively apply intelligent solutions for road safety, based among other things on ICT.
In Switzerland, road safety has improved over the last 40 years. In 1971 — our darkest year — 1773 people were killed on our roads. This figure has since been cut by 80 per cent. In comparison with other countries, Switzerland comes in a (healthy) seventh position behind the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark.
The “Via Secura” programme
In 2010, the Federal Council set the target of cutting the number of deaths by a further 25 per cent within 10 years, through the “Via Secura” programme, adopting a broader approach than hitherto. “Via Secura” focuses primarily on actions in awareness-raising among the population, road user behaviour and safety of vehicles and road infrastructure. The programme does not introduce any new prescriptions. It focuses on more effective application of the rules and standards already in force. In this regard, there are five categories of measures to be implemented in several stages by 2015.
First are preventive measures. Second are measures to ensure more effective enforcement of the existing rules. This will include, for example, allowing repeat drink-driving offenders (as from 2015) to drive only vehicles equipped with an alcohol lock, and prohibiting the supply of commercial or public traffic speed-check detection and warning services.
Third are enforcement measures targeted in particular at reckless drivers, who will be obliged to equip their vehicle with a black box which records data that can then be used by the authorities. Fourth are measures to improve the road infrastructure. And finally, fifth are measures aimed at optimizing road-accident statistics through the introduction of a multipurpose information system. These are the main features of the “Via Secura” programme.
The information society is making it possible for the automobile sector to make immense and fast progress in the area of road safety. As part of this process, States have to be prepared to modernize their road infrastructure to keep up with technological development. Switzerland, for one, has taken up this challenge.
Finally, however amazing the breakthroughs made by ICT in relation to driving-assistance systems, I believe that nothing can replace education, training and awareness-raising for drivers — and pedestrians — to ensure they behave as responsible citizens when on the roads and behind the wheel.
Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation hails from Hinwil, where his political career began in 1978 with his election as member of the Communal Council. Hinwil is a centre of the Swiss motorsports industry and is home to the Sauber Formula 1 racing team.
Mr Maurer has shown personal commitment to sports, health, social security and civil protection. In 2008, he was elected as a member of the Federal Council and has been in charge of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport. From 1995 to 2003, he was a member of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Committee. After 2003, he was engaged as member of the Finance Committee, and after 2007, as member of the Social Security and Health Committee. From 1996 to 2008, he was Chairman of the Swiss People’s Party.
Switzerland is among the safest countries for road users in the world and recorded a significant decrease in road traffic mortality in the period 2001–2010. The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention has been actively involved with ITU in developing standards for driver assistance systems and intelligent systems for accident prevention in road traffic.