- In today’s world, no matter where you live, road safety – or lack thereof – affects your quality of life.
- People in cars are between eight and 20 times less likely to be killed in a road accident than pedestrians, cyclists or motorized two-wheelers.
- Community-centered development must be prioritized by decision makers and strengthened through collaboration with other stakeholders.
Solving the road safety crisis is not just a lifetime issue; it’s about how we live. In today’s world, no matter where you live, road safety – or lack thereof – affects your quality of life. Road accidents kill one person every 24 seconds. That’s more than 3,000 people killed in one day, including 500 children.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences, including on the forgotten road safety crisis. And yet, inadvertently, it was the series of COVID-19 lockdowns that dramatically reduced the death rate on the roads.
In one fell swoop, and at significant economic cost, political will and collaboration have curbed the mobility of people and led us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of halving the number of deaths from road accidents by 2030. But this great lockdown was neither desirable nor totally sustainable for any of us.
Combining road safety and quality of life
Vulnerable road users account for around 54% of road traffic deaths worldwide. People in cars are between eight and 20 times less likely to be killed in a road accident than pedestrians, cyclists or motorized two-wheelers. It’s safe to say that for citizens around the world, there’s a bigger stake when it comes to improving road safety: it’s about our well-being and our quality of life. . After all, that was the promise that the 193 UN member states made in 2015.
In fact, linking the notion of road safety not only to the duration of our life, but also to the way we live is not new. The imperative to improve road safety appears twice in the 2030 Agenda for Global Development. First, with the target of halving road traffic deaths under the SDG which deals with health and well-being. Second, under SDG 11, which addresses the need to balance our urban development with social, economic and environmental sustainability, while explicitly calling for improved road safety.
Of course, the measure of success in halving road deaths and injuries is the decreasing rate of road fatalities. While drastically reduced death rates are essential, this context ignores the opportunity that improved road safety offers: the possibility of healthy living, well-being and freedom of movement in safety.
Further, the Social Progress Index (SPI) – the global framework for measuring aspects of well-being – also considers road safety as a key measure of social progress. The SPI links people’s sense of personal safety to the rate of road deaths and ultimately views road safety as a basic human need in a prosperous society. This is a laudable goal to aspire to.
Changes to road safety systems can save lives
Around the world, citizens – especially in the 125 low- and middle-income countries where 93% of road deaths occur – are holding governments accountable for the promise of affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems that improve road safety. .
Supporting our lifespan does not have to be costly or at the expense of our way of life – we can and should aspire to achieve both through targeted road safety funding. From an average of US$100,000 to just over US$300,000 in development assistance per country, changes to road safety systems are saving lives in developing countries hardest hit by this crisis.
More so, authorities can replicate successful community centered development strategies. Many countries have become aware of the growing unease that citizens feel about unlivable streets and spaces. This is all the more true as more and more regions around the world are strategically promoting priorities: such as community-centred urban development in Zambia or a greater share of pedestrian and cycle routes in Ethiopia.
Since we know people want to be able to walk, cycle and commute safely, policy makers and city officials don’t have to go it alone. UN agencies, businesses and civil society play a role and can contribute their expertise.
Commit to a better life for all of us
Since 2018, the United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) has been coordinating UN support to help countries deliver on their promise of a safer and more livable future. Projects ranging from reclaiming the streets of Africa for pedestrians and cyclists, to the expansion of Safe School Zone models in the Philippines and the 10-step plan for safer road infrastructure in Tanzania clearly demonstrate that the Improving road safety improves quality of life and saves lives.
However, despite the evidence that safe and livable cities can be achieved, the promises of being and feeling safe on our roads remain largely unfulfilled. Reaffirming road safety as a global development priority at the upcoming United Nations High-Level Meeting on Improving Road Safety and committing to support expanding the scope of UNRSF projects present two concrete possibilities. Member States, UN agencies and businesses can express stronger political will. They can commit significant funding to work together to improve the quality of life for all of us – while solving the road safety crisis at the same time.
We cannot afford to miss these opportunities.