Bus accidents in wintertime

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Mats Wiklund
Gudrun Öberg

Buses in Sweden have a low accident risk. However, statistics from 1996 - 2002 indicate that the number of bus accidents in Sweden with personal injuries have been increasing by 4% yearly. Buses also have a higher percentage of accidents that occur on ice/snow covered roads than other vehicles. In Sweden passenger cars must be equipped with winter tyres during the winter period. There is no such regulation for heavy vehicles, and many buses are using summer tyres all around the year. The present project had the purpose of looking at the bus-winter problem in more detail, with the main focus on tyres. Four different studies were carried out: tyre tests, focus group discussions, driving simulator tests and an accident study. Here is given a short summary concerning methods and conclusions of each sub project.

Tyre tests on smooth ice did not show any significant difference between summer tyres and non-studded winter tyres, while studded tyres exhibits a better ice grip than non-studded tyres. Nor did driving simulator tests with driving on ice covered road under the influence of heavy wind from the side show a difference between summer tyres and non-studded winter tyres. Also in these tests studded tyres were superior to non-studded. Accident statistics indicate that buses with summer tyres on the steering axle and winter tyres on the drive axle have the lowest estimated accident risk, which is in accordance with the results in a previous study. The results are however not statistically significant due the low number of accidents. Three focus groups were carried out and the importance of the tyres for traffic safety during winter was discussed. It is however hard from the gathered discussion material to estimate just how important the tyres really are. The results do not warrant a winter tyre regulation for heavy vehicles, and a restriction of the use of studded tyres for buses would probably have negative consequences on traffic safety.

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