The controversial reality of electric transport wagons
Following the horrific accident in Oss, the Netherlands on 21st September where four children lost their lives in a crash between a train and a Stint vehicle. The Dutch government temporarily prohibited the use of Stint vehicles. After an enquiry, the conclusion was that some of the technical elements of the vehicle can stop working, which can lead to failing brakes, like it did in Oss. As a consequence, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen issued the ban.
What does this mean for traffic safety in the Netherlands and Europe?
Stints temporarily banned in the Netherlands
Stints are considered to be light-electric vehicles which are used frequently by daycare centers, delivery services and companies in construction. After the horrible event in Oss - where four children lost their lives in accident where a Stint vehicle was involved - there was a new enquiry installed by the Dutch legislators into the safety of those vehicles. The conclusion was that one cannot guarantee the safety of the Stint vehicles and therefore the temporary ban was effective from 1st October. This is in contrast to an earlier report from September 2011. In this report the RDW (The Dutch government body for vehicles) approved the Stint vehicle for public use in the Netherlands. The manufacturer of the Stint vehicles, Edwin Renzen, feels like the ban is unjustified, he told Dutch newspaper Parool: "The Minister has no idea what kind of social impact her decision will have. Twenty thousand children are picked up every day and there are courier companies that only sue Stints. There are now a lot of unsafe traffic situations around schools, because children are picked up with taxis and coaches. This has an incredible impact"
(Note: the video is in Dutch)
Debate on electric vehicles
This news will mostly spark public debate about the use of electric vehicles on the road and their impact on traffic safety. It will also determine the role of such electric vehicles in society. It’s a complex matter because death always fuels emotional discussion. It’s not as much the question whether electric vehicles are making traffic less safe, but it’s more a question of the requirements we ask of those vehicles.
Furthermore, it’s very important to make a distinction between electric vehicles because not every vehicle has the same amount of power or strength. For example, we can read in the report of the Dutch government that the Stints came in two different types -an electromotor DC in 800 watt and AC 1200 watt. This means that there is a difference in power, but for both the types, there was just one set of rules. This incident will lead to further enquiries into the safety of electric vehicles. New requirements on operating or manufacturing such vehicles may need to be passed to keep roads safe.
To answer the question whether general in safety on the roads has changed over the years, we can look at the graph below which gives us the relative change in road death (%) in the period 2001-2017:
(source: Road deaths in the European Union, data by ETSC)
Although the change in road deaths have declined over the 16 years, as seen in the graph above, the debate is more alive than ever. In making the world a better, more sustainable place, there will be several drawbacks. That’s normal, but we have to think in terms of what is best for people. Safety is the number one priority and this debate will make sure that the electric vehicles are subjected to more safety regulations in the future, which will make our world not only a safer place, but also make it better.
Do you think Stints compromises road safety? Share your thoughts!