A woman, a mission: Safer roads worldwide

Caption: Sofia Salek de Braun, PTV Traffic Safety Officer, is a sought-after speaker at conferences. Here in São Paulo, Brazil.

„Transport –  Safety and Security“ is this year’s motto of the International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig.  This is a crucial issue that is high on PTV’s priority list. In September 2017, for example, the position of Solution Director Traffic Safety was created and taken on by Sofia Salek de Braun. She has been committed to improving road safety at PTV for several years now and knows a large part of her job consists of raising public awareness of road safety issues.

Compass: Sofia this is a matter close to your heart, not only professionally, but also privately. What drives you?

Sofia Salek de Braun: I am originally from Bolivia. On a visit to my family in December 2015, a traffic accident changed my life. No family should have to go through something so painful, because accidents can be avoided. I could no longer accept the situation on the roads in my home country and started a road safety project in Bolivia, with a lot of support from PTV. I am still personally involved in the project as a consultant.

Compass: With great success. For a year now, you have taken on the role as PTV’s Road Safety Ambassador and have been doing a lot of travelling.

Sofia Salek de Braun: Yes, there is a lot going on in this area and we are involved in numerous exciting projects and initiatives.

Compass: … among other things you were a keynote speaker at the beginning of the year when the World Bank, Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) and Bloomberg Philanthropies presented their latest report: “The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable”.

Sofia Salek de Braun: It was a great honour for me to be able to speak there. Among the participants were high-ranking officials – people who can really make a difference. It was a great opportunity to get our message across. After my speech, I received a lot of positive feedback. It gave me lots of energy to continue with my work and new doors have been opened. Among other things, I have been invited to Brazil, where the cities of São Paulo and Fortaleza are currently working on improving their road safety concept.

Caption: Sofia Salek de Braun, PTV Road Safety Ambassador, at the Tranformin Transport conference, together with Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogota, Colombia.

Compass: Can you give us some examples of projects PTV is currently involved in?

Sofia Salek de Braun: We are now working with Newcastle University on a road safety project in Lisbon. And in Munich, colleagues from PTV Transport Consult helped compile a study to determine the current state of road traffic, the results of which are now flowing into a new road safety concept. The City of Basle has just recently started working with a traffic model in PTV Visum, our software that shows accident accumulation points and critical road sections with an increased risk of accidents (accident black spots). The accident and network data are then used for accident forecasts and analyses. In April, we hosted the first PTV Road Safety Forum with numerous experts from municipalities, the police, industry and organisations such as the Fraunhofer Institute at our headquarters in Karlsruhe.

Compass: But you also work closely with the International Transport Forum (ITF)?

Sofia Salek de Braun: Yes, ITF is a close partner. In April, I attended the 3rd meeting of ITF’s “Safer City Streets” network in Rome, a platform of road safety experts working with cities to build a global database for urban road safety and mobility. I also worked on the CBP report “Safer Roads with Automated Vehicles”, which deals with road safety in the course of the introduction of autonomous vehicles. The assertion that the elimination of human error could prevent about 90 percent of all fatal accidents is yet to be proven. Especially during the transition period, with driverless and conventional cars, new dangers are expected to arise. The number of traffic accidents could even increase during the transition phase. Many experts believe that we will have to accept that people will die in the process. I think that is the wrong approach. Technology cannot take precedence over human life. We must take all possible measures to minimise the risks in advance. Although automatic driving systems could contribute to fewer accidents in the long term, there are many unknown factors that still need to be clarified and regulated. Our concern, first and foremost, must be the protection and safety of people.

The CBP report “Safer Roads with Automated Vehicles” will be presented during the World Transport Forum on 23 May 2018 at 10.00 a.m. at the Press