In Sweden we are quite, I’m not sure it’s the right word but let’s say, quite worried about safety. Or maybe not worried, but quite aware of safety. More so we are quite aware of and worried about the risks that might lead to not being safe and we want to control those risks. It’s not American absurd as in wanting to avoid law suit and therefore printing “may kill” on knives, no, it’s more real worry about the fact that others may suffer and how could we help to avoid that.
We worry about animal safety, economic safety, environmental safety, ergonomic safety, food safety, workplace safety and through the decades we have been quite worried about traffic safety. It is not by chance that the Volvo car brand was born and bred in Sweden. It was created and marketed to answer those national trends and consumer needs pointing out that safety must come first. In fact after it became Chinese a decade or so ago it suffered from weakening brand equity and lately the commercials have been rerouted to further emphasize the Swedish base values via other strong Swedish brand personas: the strength, the trust, the safety.
True social liberal neutral don’t-want-to-meddle-into-other-people’s-lives democrats that us Swedes are we view it the task of society to provide the tools for keeping the risk taking that might compromise our safety at a minimum. So we create laws that ensure safety around different areas and then we all get the opportunity to refer to the law when others do something stupid instead of actually meddling and saying what we think is right and standing up for it. So, for traffic then, the law says you can’t drive too fast, the law says you have to wear seat belts in the whole car, the law says you can’t drink more than 0.5 per mille and drive, the law says child seats must be used. And the reasoning for adhering to these laws is the actual fact that there is a law, not always the hopefully good reasoning behind the creation of the law. We are a law abiding people. Which is good in how it makes the laws efficient.
The traffic safety and risk aspect is one that stands out particularly when spending time in other countries, and even more so when changing countries. And I am certain the standards for how to behave in traffic and the relationship that each country has to their traffic laws are clear indicators of the respective cultures as a whole. Sensible and law abiding in traffic, probably efficient and bureaucratic as a whole. As the Swedes. Or Germans. Emotional and messy in traffic probably passionate and loud as a whole. As the Italians. Laid back and do-as-you please in traffic, probably calm and pragmatic as a whole. As the Portuguese.
I recently spent a long weekend in my mothers originating country, the beautifully green and undulated Macedonia. I haven’t been there in over thirty years, but still, nearly everything was the same. Sadly, also the poverty was the same.
As for traffic safety awareness, the people and taxi drivers seemed oblivious. Child seats were bluntly stated as not used for children over six years of age, and for those under six, it was considered enough that the child was in the seat. The belt was viewed unnecessary. Throughout the different cars we rode the drivers had gone through various degrees of creativity to work around the beeping sound when not using seat belts, fastening the belt on the back of the seat, pressing combs or pins into the attachment, you name it. When underway to the airport we were, in a very serious and service minded manner, just after we’d realized the seat belt for our daughter would not work fully, informed that we were very welcome to smoke in the car. Right.
I’m sure I am being quite Swedish, but it really makes me wonder if worrying about safety is closely connected to economic development?
Being in the middle of summer vacations and travelling to other countries, what’s your experience on the topic? Do you see a link between your vacation countries safety concerns and economic development? And do you see the mood of the country reflected in the driving?