The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, is visiting Saudi Arabia to meet Ministers and stakeholders from the private sector, calling for further actions to address the challenge of road safety. While Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in tackling its traffic safety problem, road crashes remain one of the greatest causes of injury and fatality in the country.
Scheduled from 24-27 October, the Special Envoy’s mission to Riyadh intends to advocate for effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, aiming to halve the number of victims on the road by 2030. Meanwhile, the Special Envoy will also attend the 7th Edition of Future Investment Initiative (FII), exploring opportunities and challenges of promoting global economic growth and prosperity.
Significant progress, yet challenge remains…
In 2016, Saudi Arabia was faced with a severe development challenge in road safety. With an estimated 28.8 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people, it had the worst road fatality rate of any high-income country and the highest in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Staggering road traffic fatalities also brought a heavy economic burden to the country, with road accidents estimated to cost US $3.75 billion, representing about 2% of the National GDP.
In response, the country established a Ministerial Committee for Road Traffic Safety, which coordinated a comprehensive set of actions to improve the quality of infrastructure and post-crash response, strengthen law enforcement and improve data collection. Thanks to these combined initiatives, road fatalities decreased by nearly 35% in five years to 18.5 per 100,000 population in 2021.
In its National Transformation Programme (NTP), Saudi Arabia designated road safety as one pillar to realize its ambitious social and economic reform plan, Vision 2030. Specifically, the country aims to reduce the road fatality rate to less than 10 per 100,000 population by 2030, which would bring it beyond the objective of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.
Nevertheless, compared to other high-income countries, Saudi Arabia still has a high road fatality rate, with about 60% of casualties occurring within the young and productive age group of 19 – 40. Given the rapid growth of vehicles and electric two-wheelers, the imperative for strong enforcement of road safety laws and regulations becomes more pressing.
UN Special Envoy’s Call for further actions:
During his mission, the Special Envoy will engage with government officials and stakeholders from the private sector to explore opportunities to further reduce road traffic injury and mortality. According to the Special Envoy, priority should be given to improving enforcement of laws on speeding, helmet and safety belt use, as well as launching public awareness campaigns, especially among the young generation who are a critical group of victims.
“I am encouraged by the decrease in traffic fatalities of 35% in 5 years. However, we should acknowledge that there is still a long way to go. Road crashes remain a major cause of deaths and injuries, in particular among young people” said the Special Envoy, Jean Todt. “Further actions that address all elements of the safe system need to be taken to save more lives.”
Note to editors
About the Special Envoy: Appointed by the UN Secretary General, the Special Envoy for Road Safety is dedicated to advancing road safety initiatives globally. Through strategic advocacy and community engagement, he works to create safer roads, mitigate road traffic injuries, and save lives worldwide.