Walking is the cheapest, most non-polluting, and possibly healthiest mode of transport. And dense cities seem to be a pre-existing condition for enabling us to meet our daily walking needs, along with diversified land uses, typically called “mixed-use development”. Densification and “mixed-use development” are currently seen as a strategy for designing sustainable cities, and many high-quality mobility plans, which consider the interactions between land use and transport, also pursue this type of urban development.
But densification and “mixed-use development” present (at least) two challenges. The first is how to provide quality pedestrian infrastructure that encourages non-motorized mode choices. The second is how to efficiently deliver the large quantities of goods required in these dense cities. These were the themes of successful seminars recently held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thanks to a World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility grant.
The “mobility by foot” seminar was a four-day learning event on pedestrian mobility organized by Brazil’s Associação Nacional de Transportes Públicos. In Brazil, as in most cities in Latin America, around 35% of people’s daily trips are on foot, and there is evidence that this number is underestimated given the limitations of current data collection methods. Given the priority in reducing the impact of our carbon “footprint” (or “carprint”), governments need more evidence and incentives to move the sustainability agenda forward.
I arrived with high expectations on what this event could mean in terms of re-launching international efforts to fight against this global epidemic that kills 1.25 million people, and maims another 50 million, every year.
For the road safety community, the Brasilia conference was a crucial moment to take stock of what has been achieved so far, and rethink the strategy towards the future so the international community can scale up action and funding to meet the UN Decade of Action targets and the respective SDG targets on road safety.
In these first five years of the Decade of Action (2010-2020), the initial objective, namely stabilizing road deaths, has been achieved: global road deaths (per year) have plateaued since 2007, as shown by the WHO latest report. We should note, however, that among the largest contributors of road deaths (China, India, Brazil, among others) there is significant potential for under-reporting.
In any case, we are still far away from the objective at the heart of these international commitments: reducing road deaths by half by the end of the decade. And we should also note that 90% of these deaths continue to happen in low and middle-income countries, affecting the youngest and most vulnerable.
This ambitious target can only be achieved through a concerted effort that involves all major stakeholders: national and local governments, multilateral development banks, bilateral donors, civil society, and the private sector. The latter, a key stakeholder in this agenda, can contribute the knowledge, resources, and innovations that are required to accelerate progress and decisively change existing trends.
The insurance industry is also a key part of this coalition. Already playing an important, if somewhat hidden, role in the road safety agenda, the industry insures almost 1 billion vehicles globally, helping to reduce the costs of road crashes to society and the economy.
Improvements in road safety benefit the public as well as the insurance industry. Broad-based insurance coverage makes sure that health and property costs for victims of road crashes are protected, but it also benefits insurance companies by expanding their market. In the same vein, reducing the number or severity of crashes benefits all of us, while it also reduces the volume of claims to insurance firms.
In fact a huge motivator to create good road safety practices lies in the sense of personal responsibility. A driver who wants to achieve a safe record is far more likely to avoid accidents than a driver who has no care for safety. If insurance is both well designed and implemented, it can have an enormous impact for improving road safety.
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.