Consumers International Photo Essay

Lives at what cost?

Regulations for the safety of new cars coming onto the market vary around the world. But most low and middle income countries have weak safety regulations, and it is where 90% of road crash deaths occur. There is a stark truth here. Where there are no or lax regulations, car companies do not need to maintain safety standards - and many don't.

In an alarming number of countries, cars of the same make and model, sometimes even made in the very same factory, roll off assembly lines with one set of safety features for sale in a country with strong regulations and minimal, if any, safety features for sale in countries without.

This is a disturbing double standard, boiling down to lives in one country being worth less than lives in another.

In Mexico for example, the biggest selling car on the market - the Nissan Tsuru - is the car most often used as a taxi. It is also a zero star car according to the Latin NCAP crash test, meaning the driver is provided poor level of protection with minimal safety features. This car would never be allowed to be sold in the US or other developed countries with regulations, and yet it continues to be mass produced and sold in large numbers in Mexico.

Much of this is a lack of awareness by consumers. Most do not know to ask about safety features, either because they believe all cars are safe, or because it is not top of mind when purchasing a car. Thus the demand for safety remains low, crashes happen, the death toll remains staggeringly high and car manufacturers continue to produce unsafe cars they can sell into unregulated markets.

Mexico has few car safety regulations. These photos show six Mexicans who have spoken about their experiences with their cars. Crashed, a lack of safety features, a lack of information when purchasing their cars, their horror when watching Latin NCAP crash text videos and seeing the cars they drive crumple. They all agree they would happily pay money for safety features in their cars, if only they were on offer.

Ascencion, Gabriel, Israel, Heriberto, Marcela and Mildred are just like you and I. 

The question remains - are their lives worth less than ours?

Photography by Chris Barlett Photography.

Ascencion Garrido Campos, Puebla

Ascencion is married with three young children, during the day he works at an advertising magazine. 

Ascencion drives a Chevrolet Matiz, recently he was in an accident with his daughter in the car, and she broke her nose. 

"Companies worry about selling more cars, but they should start worrying more about providing safety to the people who buy the cars."

Ascensión Garrido Campos, Puebla, Puebla (Mexico) 

Gabriel Sanchez Calderon, Iztapalapa, Mexico City

Gabriel, 29, is a young taxi driver from the city of Mexico. After watching the Latin NCAP crash test video he was shocked to see the Tsuru, a car that he drives himself, virtually destroyed from a crash just a little over 60 km/h. This is the cheapest car, Gabriel says, concerned as he owns Nissan Tsuru taxis.

'We know they do not have airbags' he says, 'but seeing it crash just over 60 kilometers per hour is alarming'. His fleet of cabs consists of 8 Nissan Tsurus, one Chevrolet Aveo and a Nissan Tiida.

The government washes their hands, he says deeply disappointed, but reflects: "Maybe I didn't research as much as was necessary; in the future I will spend more time determining the best car for me."

"Seeing the Tsuru crashing just over 60 kilometres per hour is alarming."

Gabriel Sanchez Calderon, 29 years old, Estado De Mexico

Israel Torres Jiménez, State of Mexico

Israel is a taxi driver in the State of Mexico. He hires a Nissan Tsuru from Gabriel, the most common taxi in Mexico City. On a rainy night recently, he had an accident, and it made him more aware of safety features in cars, having seen the damage done to his taxi after what was a minor crash.

He is now very wary about driving in the wet. His view is that “the Tsuru is a disposable car” and when shown the Latin NCAP video of the Tsuru crash test, he was quite distressed. He feels he is in a terrible position, as driving a taxi is the only job he feels he is qualified and able to do. He is very aware of his responsibility to his passengers, but this is the only car he can drive and afford.  

"As taxi drivers we see small accidents, or even big ones, everyday."

Israel Torres Jimenez
28 years old, Estado De Mexico 

Heriberto Mendoza Marroquin, Cholula, Puebla

Heriberto is 64 years old and works for the government as an administrator.  

His whole family drives a Chevrolet Spark. They haven't had an accident, however they were shocked to discover the lack of safety features in their family car. 

"There should be a system of equal safety for all vehicles."

Heriberto Mendoza Marroquin, Cholula, Puebla

Marcela Salazar Salgado, Mexico City

Marcela lives with her dog, Gema, in Iztapalapa, a poorer neighbourhood of Mexico City. She works for the Mexican Institute of Social Security, and drives her Chevrolet Aveo to work everyday. She remembers how excited she was when she bought the car, and loves the space, freedom and performance.

When choosing the car to buy, price was a key factor. The dealer told her about all the features of the car, though not the safety features, and she didn’t ask, assuming “that all cars are safe.” When shown the Latin NCAP crash test video of the Aveo, she was shocked. This turned into anger and disbelief, and she questioned both the government for not regulating around car safety and protecting consumers, but also manufacturers for seemingly treating her life as less than in other countries. She is in the market for a new car, and now knows to ask about safety features.

"They should tell us the truth: which car is safe, and which one isn't.. Why would they do it in one country and not in another?"

Marcela Salazar Salgado

47 years old, Mexico City

Mildred Dimayuga Mosso, Cuernavaca, Morelos

Mildred is 31 years old and and lives in Cuernavaca, the capital city of the state of Morelos. Mildred works in administration at a University and drives her Nissan Tiida to work. 

Mildred was in an accident in her Tiida while driving on the highway.

“It was not enough that I was careful when driving on the highway.”

Mildred Dimayuga Mosso, Cuernavaca, Morelos (Mexico) 

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