Halving road deaths by 2020: A global health priority

©Rights reserved

Every year 1.25 million people are killed and as many as 50 million seriously injured in road crashes worldwide. This epidemic of road injury causes huge economic losses and places severe burdens on public health systems. Fortunately, this predictable and preventable global health emergency has now been given the international recognition it deserves. Road safety is included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Health, with a target to halve road deaths and injuries by 2020. This provides the strongest possible mandate for urgent action against a scourge that has become the number one killer of young people in all regions of the world. 

The UN’s very ambitious casualty reduction target poses a significant challenge to governments across the world to reinvigorate their road safety policies and adopt effective strategies for road injury prevention. An unrivalled source of guidance for exactly this is contained in the International Transport Forum’s new publication “Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System”. This report, prepared by an ITF group comprising experts from countries with the most successful performance in road injury reduction, challenges policymakers to envisage a world entirely free from road fatalities and serious injuries.

Rather than blame the victim for road crashes, the report advocates a “forgiving” or “safe system” approach which recognises that while people will always make mistakes, there is nothing inevitable about deaths and serious injuries from road crashes. The report promotes an integrated mix of policies for safe vehicles, safe roads and safe road users, which aims to ensure that when crashes occur the impact forces do not exceed the physical limits of the human body and lead to serious injury or death.

A key message of the ITF report is the importance of accepting a shared responsibility to design, manage and use our road traffic systems in ways that reduce the risk of injury. In practice, this approach encourages policymakers to apply a combination road infrastructure, vehicle technologies and behavioral measures. Speed management becomes a critical overall policy instrument especially as regards vulnerable road users, who account for nearly half of all road fatalities, and where avoiding any impact above 30 km/h is a critical life-saving requirement.

To achieve the UN’s ambitious target much needs to be done. According to the World Health Organization, too many countries lack the basic framework of laws that are the sine qua non for effective road injury prevention. For example, only 44 countries worldwide have best practice helmet laws; only 34 countries have best practice drink driving laws; and only 40 countries apply the most important vehicle safety regulations. Too often also, new road construction in low and middle income countries raises levels of speed but neglects investment in road side architecture that will protect both vehicle and vulnerable road users alike.

Health ministers and the public health community as a whole have a vital role to play in road injury prevention. They are responsible, of course, for emergency response and post-crash care which is critical to rates of survival and recovery for victims. But in addition, the health sector can act as a powerful catalyst for effective implementation of the “safe system” approach. Data, such as hospital admission records, for example, are an essential resource to help policymakers determine their priority road safety actions.

Another vital issue is funding. With the notable exceptions of the Bloomberg Philanthropies and the FIA Foundation there is a lack of donor support for national, regional, and global road safety initiatives. In 2015 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on road safety that called for the establishment of a UN Road Safety Trust Fund. This is a very welcome proposal as it could, if properly resourced, provide much needed support for capacity building in road injury prevention in low and middle income countries that account for almost 90% of the worlds road traffic deaths.

With road safety now firmly now on the global health agenda and with policy recommendations so expertly framed by the International Transport Forum really there has never been a better time for concerted global action to make roads safe.

Short online URL for this article: http://oe.cd/1NH


NB: The International Transport Forum (ITF) at the OECD received the 2016 Special Award of the Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Awards for “leadership in improving the delivery of road safety across the world”. 

References

ITF (2016), Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift in Road Safety, available online at www.itf-oecd.org/zero-road-deaths

WHO (2015), Global Status Report on Road Safety, see www.who.int

UN General Assembly Resolution 70/1 of 25 September 2015, entitled “Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, see www.un.org

UN General Assembly Resolution 70/260 of 15 April 2016, entitled “Improving global road safety”, paragraph 29, see www.un.org

©OECD Observer No 309 Q1 2017




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q3 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 22 Nov 2018

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018