Road safety may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of ending extreme poverty. But poor road safety conditions affect the world’s poorest people the most.
Take the case of Africa. While every other region around the globe registered a decline in road fatality rates between 2010 and 2013, Africa’s rate rose. The continent now has the highest regional fatality rate with 27 deaths for every 100,000 people. Low-income countries’ share of global deaths increased from 12% to 16% during the same period. Yet these nations account for only 1% of total global vehicles.
In the run up to the first hackathon on road safety in India, we caught up with Arnab Bandopadhyay, Senior Transport Engineer at the World Bank and asked him a few questions:
- Why is the World Bank focusing on road safety in India?
While India has less than 3% of the world’s vehicles, it accounts for some 11% of the world’s road deaths. That too, when many such incidents are not documented at all.
Road accidents are not only traumatic for victims and their families but also take a huge economic toll on the country. They cost an estimated 3% of GDP each year. The large majority of road accident victims are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists - mostly from the economically weaker sections of the society – making road safety a matter of social equity. Promoting road safety is therefore an important national priority.
An increasing “motorbike revolution” – represented by spectacular increase in motorbike motorization and reliance on door-to-door motorized services – has changed the rules of the game and cannot be obviated in transport systems.
Flicking through the Uber website, we found that the company used to offer an “UberMoto” service in Paris from 2012 to 2013. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the local Colombian newspaper headlines discuss the legislation forbidding male passengers on motorcycles in a number of cities in an effort to curb moto-taxis.
The impact of motorbikes cannot be ignored. Purchase of motorbikes and operation of moto-taxis have been identified as key drivers for a modal shift from public transit to private vehicles in many places around the world, including Colombia. The nationwide phenomenon of moto-taxis has revolutionized mobility in small and medium-size Colombian cities, and has become a source of income for many.
To start, the numbers speak for themselves. In 1992, 1,566 kids (14 years old and under) were killed in road crashes in South Korea. By 2014, children deaths dramatically decreased to only 53, the equivalent of an almost 97 percent reduction over that period of time. No other country that we know of has experienced such a remarkable reduction in only 22 years.
What made this achievement possible?
Although there isn't a single answer, the evidence shows that comprehensive policies played a crucial role in reducing children deaths due to road and traffic injuries.
Blink and you may have missed that the beginning of May was the third United Nations Road Safety Week. As with everything omnipresent in our lives, the steady drumbeat of the nightly local news reporting a fatal wreck or injury may only cause a passing glance. Yet, a number of recent actions have focused international institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and others together to take on the number one killer of young people worldwide: road crashes.The end of April saw the United Nations Secretary General announced the creation of a Special Envoy for Road Safety, signaling a new level of growing attention to the topic. While this year’s UN Road Safety Week was dedicated to the theme of protecting children, it’s really about ensuring the safety of all ages, especially in the developing world, where 90 percent of road crashes occur each year.
The United Kingdom, Netherlands and Sweden consistently occupy the top of the road safety league table. As the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 hits its mid-point, practitioners are working on transferring these countries’ (and others) lessons more quickly across the developing world. In the meantime, the overall cost of fatal and serious injuries in just the 80 lowest-income countries is estimated to be a staggering $220 billion per year and a global average equivalent to 3-5% of GDP loss.
Action is needed now, to avoid the forecasted rise of road fatalities to be the fifth-overall leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
There will likely not be a single breakthrough moment to get this topic into the realm of more mainstreamed development issues, but rather a series of sustained pushes across spheres of activity at the country, regional and global level. The month of March 2015 saw three telling activities play out with global aspirations.
Too often, the world overlooks this issue. But four years ago, for one moment, the world did not ignore a tragedy on the road. My family was thrust into the spotlight when we suffered the loss of my precious daughter, Zenani.
For a brief moment, barely a day, the world’s attention was on my family during our nightmare. Yet too often, when young lives are lost on the roads, the world turns a blind eye.
As I stand here today, right now in my thoughts are the 500 families who have suffered the loss of a child in just the last 24 hours. Those feeling the same suffocating pain as my own family has done. Parents losing that which they hold most precious. The world will barely notice this suffering. And worse, there will be no action to prevent the 500 tragedies of tomorrow, and each day after that.
I’m speaking today because I want to say that we can no longer sit here and ignore this crisis. Collectively we are failing. And we are being failed by our leaders. We must change this. We must demand action.
With the Save Kids Lives campaign that we have launched for UN Global Road Safety Week, we have witnessed a movement growing around the world. Families, communities and civil society joining together demanding greater protection on the roads, particularly for their children.
Originally, black boxes in airplanes perform routine gathering and storing of data on all airplane operations during fly time. In the event of a specific accident or crash, the log data can be analyzed to determine or clarify the causes of an incident.
A black box for cars is a video recording device with an acceleration sensor and a GPS receiver module. It can record any situation happening in front of a vehicle and store the information in the form of digital images into a built-in memory card. A vehicle’s black box is not a newly developed technology, but an application of existing video-recording technologies for the purpose of increasing road safety. This simple technology also has played a crucial role in solving or clarifying causes related to traffic crashes. Above all, the black box for vehicles has resulted in a decrease of traffic crashes, thus saving lives.
In South Korea, for example, taxi drivers first installed vehicles’ black boxes back in 2008. Since then, vehicle black boxes have been rapidly adopted by taxis throughout the country, under the sponsorship of local governments and insurance companies.
Several indicators aim to illustrate the impact of traffic crashes. The most common ones are the number of fatalities and injuries. Globally some 1.3 million people die on the road every year and up to 50 million suffer injuries. And overall economic costs of road crashes range from 2-5 percent of GDP in many countries. These economic costs provide a basis for transport safety improvement projects such as hazard location treatments, road audits, school zones and other preventive measures.
It is important, however, to turn our eyes on the impact of road crashes at the household level. The impact on a family in losing a loved one is enormous, both in terms of emotional trauma and/or loss of income or caused disability, especially when many poor countries do not have strong enough safety nets for victims of road crashes. The impact of road crashes is less understood, and lack of strong data or evidence on these is a challenge in many countries.
If a member of a family is involved in a road crash, what kind of changes are likely to occur in that particular family? If the head of household or breadwinner is killed or severely injured, the impact to that household can be devastating. There are scarcely plausible surveys that show the effects of road crashes on households because it is presumably difficult to trace victims of road crashes.
Unfortunately, the country’s performance remains poor compared to many other countries with similar socioeconomic characteristics. In fact, Brazil’s death toll is currently between 23 and 27 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, which is more than twice the targets of its own national strategy for 2014 and far above the best performing countries in the world, such as Sweden (three deaths per 100,000). Why?
A variety of factors contribute to this situation, from lagging infrastructure quality to the overall organization of the transport sector, characterized by insufficient integration and coordination between jurisdictions as well as across sectors. This is further epitomized by the four distinct national programs mentioned at the beginning of this post.
In mid-2014, Brazil was selected by the UN to organize the mid-term ministerial review meeting of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, which will take place in November 2015. A unit within the Prime Minister’s Cabinet (Casa Civil) was appointed to coordinate the national road safety program at the federal level. Soon, the Brazilian government formalized a partnership with the World Bank to advise on a short-term action plan that features three main pillars: infrastructure assessment, institutional organization, and management evaluation and knowledge sharing.
Every year, more than 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes worldwide, equivalent to nearly eight Boeing 747 plane crashes every day. As developing economies grow and private car ownership becomes more mainstream, the number of associated crashes and fatalities will continue to rise.
The challenge of traffic safety often flies under the radar in cities, where the social and economic challenges of accommodating growing populations take precedent. Without meaningful change, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that traffic crashes could become the fifth leading cause of premature death worldwide by 2030. This takes a particular toll on cities, which are already home nearly half of global traffic fatalities. City leaders must prioritize traffic safety measures to ensure that their citizens have safe, healthy and economically prosperous cities to call home.
With Urban Growth Comes Traffic Safety Challenges
While there are a number of factors that contribute to traffic crashes, two of the primary challenges are rising motorization trends in cities worldwide and the issue of road equity: the most vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, are most impacted by traffic crashes. On top of that, these users, typically lower-income, don’t always have the power or capacity to create the necessary changes.
The number of privately owned cars on the road hit the one billion mark for the first time in 2010. If we continue business-as-usual, that number will reach an estimated 2.5 billion cars by 2050. All of these new cars will lead to an increase in traffic congestion in cities worldwide, increasing the probability of traffic crashes and resulting fatalities.