Over 3,700 people lose their lives on the world’s roads every single day, totalling a staggering 1.35 million fatalities each year. Road crashes are the leading cause of death for young people aged between 5 and 29, wiping out futures and destroying the lives of those they leave behind.
Declaring a “road safety emergency” ahead of the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, to be held in Stockholm on 19-20 February, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, and UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova today issued an urgent wake-up call to governments, to the international community and to all stakeholders.
Despite mounting efforts in recent years, the objective to stabilize and then halve road fatalities and injuries by 2020, as enshrined in SDG Target 3.6, will not be met. The number of victims of road crashes continues to rise, especially in low- and middle-income countries, which account for 90% of road fatalities. With these alarming trends, the world is not on track to meet the road safety targets by 2030 neither. In fact, road crashes jeopardize the whole sustainable development agenda, costing developing countries between 2 and 5% of GDP per year, preventing vital investment in schools and universities, hospitals, access to water and sanitation, climate action and other key areas.
The Special Envoy urged that “we cannot continue with business as usual after the Ministerial Conference. Road crashes on the alarming scale we witness today are not accidents. They are the failure of a system which does not sufficiently value safety. This is why we need a new paradigm for road safety that focuses on building a safe system”.
Such a transformation requires governments, planners, architects, local authorities, industry, investors and all stakeholders to make safety a priority for all decisions related to mobility, including for better infrastructure, proper enforcement, and safer vehicles.
“Without this change”, warned the Special Envoy, “we will never uphold the human right to safe mobility. Only with this systemic shift will the political momentum in Stockholm have real impact in reducing fatalities by 2030.”
Poor road safety is not simply a health problem that can be solved with a pill or vaccine; it is at the same time a transport problem, an institutional, a societal and an inequalities problem that must be faced up to in a holistic manner and as a collective responsibility.
Putting this vision into action requires much greater political priority, efforts and funding. The United Nations Road Safety Fund, lunched in 2018, provides an opportunity to mobilize funding at scale and ensure coordinated, targeted action founded in a safe system approach.
“We need a change of gear in political commitment and in focus, valuing safety at the heart of sustainable mobility for the 2030 Agenda”, stressed UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. “I call on all countries to accede to and implement the seven core UN Road Safety Conventions, which offer a basis to legislate and take concrete measures to address the main causes of crashes”.
Underscoring the need for accrued financial resources, she urged all stakeholders to harness the UN Road Safety Fund as a catalyst to mobilise funds, warning that “we clearly need many more millions to realize the Fund’s full potential to save lives”.
Note to editors
Uneven progress since 2013 linked to legislative measures
According to the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, legislative measures around key risks have contributed to reductions since 2013 in road traffic deaths in 48 middle- and high-income countries. But not a single low-income country has seen a reduction in overall deaths, in large part due to lack of these measures.
Most key risks are covered by UN Road safety agreements
The majority of key risks are covered by UN Road safety conventions administered by UNECE. Among these, 7 are considered priorities for road safety, covering areas such as road infrastructure, traffic rules, road signs and signals, all aspects of vehicle safety and the transport of hazardous materials.
UN vehicle regulations cover all aspects of active and passive safety, including: seat belts (reducing the risk of fatal injury by 40–50% in the front seats and between 25–75% in the rear seats); airbags, Advanced Emergency Braking Systems, which could save more than 1,000 lives every year within the EU from 2022; helmets (reducing the risk of fatal head injuries by about 60%) and anti-lock brakes (reducing injury from crashes by about 30%); pedestrian protection requirements for vehicles to reduce severity of injuries and E-call - automated call to emergency services in case of crash - compulsory for all new cars sold in the EU since April 2018 – which can reduce emergency response times by 40% in urban areas and 50% in the countryside, and can reduce the number of fatalities by at least 4% (this means 1,000 lives saved/year in the EU) and the number of severe injuries by 6%.