We want to raise public awareness regarding road safety by proposing solutions which would help decrease traffic mortality rates
The issue of road safety in Croatia is being analysed daily in recent times due to alarming rates of deaths in traffic accidents, especially with young people. While we were discussing our ideas, there were three major traffic accidents in our town which took the lives of five people, one of whom was a well-known local actor who got run over on a pedestrian crossing. These shocking news motivated us to explore in more detail what the main cause of these accidents might be and to raise awareness within our community so that these accidents happen as rarely as possible.
During our research, we found that the countries with the highest traffic fatality rate in 2016 were Romania (96/million), Bulgaria (88/million), Latvia (78/million) and Croatia (77/million). Our first instinct was to blame the roads for that, but we soon found that Croatian roads are one of the best in the world, suggesting that the reason for high mortality rates lies elsewhere.
With time, the news started reporting that all accidents mentioned above were the result of alcohol abuse of the driver.
We started digging more, and what we found was striking. Our county, Osijek-Baranja County, had the second greatest increase of fatalities from 2017 to 2018 in Croatia (+10,6%) Furthermore, more than one third of traffic-related fatalities in Croatia happens during the weekend (36,3%), when young people go out, have drinks and party.
Adding to this, we noticed another issue - a great number of Croatian drivers use their phone while driving, which was proven to be extremely dangerous by numerous studies all over the world. We found that over 90 per cent of Croatian drivers use their phones regularly while driving, which is especially dangerous considering that the average car in Croatia is over 12 years old and has no handsfree equipment installed.
Finally, after analyzing all our data, we have identified three key issues adversely affecting road safety in Croatia:
- misuse/overuse of mobile phones while driving,
- pedestrian unawareness
- alcohol and/or drug abuse.
Now the question was - what could we do about it?
Our original initiative was to make a model of our technological solutions which would be shown during our school's annual Open days. This would serve two purposes: Firstly, it would raise awareness of young people with regard to road safety, and secondly, it would show our citizens that our school thinks about the problems of our community in an innovative way.
Also, the focus on technology seemed natural to us since the students involved in the project are future mechatronics engineers and have shown great interest in electrical engineering and robotics. Because of this, they were keen to showcase their talents through our project.
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic happened and forced us to discard most of our plans.
Our country went into lockdown for three weeks and regular classes still remain suspended until the end of this school year. This has forced us to re-think the whole approach because we couldn't see each other, much less work together on making models and gadgets. In the end, we managed to do the following:
To help solve pedestrian unawareness, we propose LED-illuminated zebra crossing. We made a model and you can see it on the cover picture and in the presentation. The work on the model has proved to be extremely demanding because it was almost impossible to buy all the equipment we needed, but we succeeded and the result is an innovative and sustainable solution.
We wanted to tackle the misuse of mobile phones by fitting a signal scrambler in the car which would work only if the phone is not connected to handsfree system and the car engine is running. The diagram for the system is attached in the images section.
Finally, the alcohol and drug detector is the most complicated solution. It would work as primarily an alcohol detector similar to breathalyzers used by law enforcement. Its secondary function would be detecting drugs by measuring pupil dialation reflex via built-in camera in the rearviewmirror. It is known this reflex is much slower if a driver is under the influence, so it could be easily calibrated. If the system senses the driver is under the influence, it would disengage the power and prevent the car from starting. Tree decision diagram for the system is attached in the images section.
Even though we couldn’t have the opportunity to create the models of these devices, we were contacted by a local radio station, Radio Djakovo. They saw the information about our project on our school's website and wanted to interview us. This way we had the chance to explain our proposals and hopefully this will increase the visibility of our project and will motivate others to think about road safety in an innovative way and help prevent so many traffic related fatalities in our County and other parts of Croatia.