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How the Insurance Industry Can Make Our Roads Safer

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
Road crashes are a global health and development challenge with significant human and economic costs, especially in developing countries. The leading cause of death among people aged 15-29, road crashes kill 1.25 million people every year and injure another 50 million—more deaths than from malaria or tuberculosis. In low and middle-income countries, this is estimated to reduce GDP by 3 to 5%. The United Nations recognized the severity of this challenge by adopting specific road safety targets in the Sustainable Development Goals: to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road crashes by 2020.
Photo: Carlos Felipe Pardo

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.

​Making Moroccan cities safer and more livable

Vickram Cuttaree's picture
Who hasn’t walked in a city thinking that it was made for individual cars and not people? In many cities, the situation is quite bad, with too many vehicles contributing to congestion and pollution and a visible absence of planning, making walking a perilous adventure.
That’s how it is in Morocco. Here’s a few facts that give some food for thought:
  • About 60 percent of Morocco’s population live in cities and that number is expected to increase to 70 percent by 2050.
  • Close to 20 percent of the urban population is considered economically vulnerable, living on less than $2 a day.
  • At the same time, spending on urban transport can represent as much as 20 percent of the poorest household’s income for an inadequate level of service.
  • In 2012, more than 48,000 traffic incidents occurred in Moroccan cities, resulting in 1,350 fatalities and more than 60,000 injuries, with most of the victims being pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
  • More women than men depend on urban transport but women face security concerns along with the threat of sexual harassment. . 
Source: The Center for Mediterranean Integration / CODATU, Transitec, CasaTransport

What is less visible though is the pollution and climate impact. Transport is estimated to be contributing approximately 23 percent of total energy-related CO2 emissions. In cities, congestion results in more emission per vehicle-km, and the use of private vehicles instead of public transportation contributes to a high level of emission per passenger-km. Poor planning and weak public transport has led to urban development that contributes to longer commutes for many people and more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The unreliability of public transportation has encouraged the use of mostly fuel-inefficient taxis.

​Lagos’ Bus Rapid Transit System: Decongesting and Depolluting Mega-Cities

Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge's picture
Photo:  Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA)

As Beijing is issuing its first-ever red alert due to record levels of air pollution, it is time for us to reflect on how we can propose cleaner urban transport solutions to large cities in the developing world.
The transport sector accounts for 23 percent of energy-related global CO2 emissions, second behind electricity and heat generation. Moreover, transport-related emissions are set to rise from 23 percent to up to 33 percent by 2050.

In Beijing, banning half of the car off the streets (except electric and hybrid vehicles) is one of the most radical measures that the authorities have taken to fight what some observers have called airpocalypse. To compensate, 200 additional buses have been added to the cities’ public transport system. Schools have also been closed and outdoor construction works have been forced to stop. The social and economic costs of airpocalypse are enormous. With particulates levels more than 10 times the recommended levels, there are serious health consequences for Beijing’s 20 million inhabitants.
As urbanization continues all over the world, many mega-cities are desperately looking for credible solutions to improve urban transport systems and reduce traffic congestion. Sophisticated but expensive systems like underground subways are economically out-of-reach for many large cities in the developing world. The good news is that there are some excellent alternatives that the World Bank Group and other international partners have been promoting.
One of these alternatives is the so-called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Invented in Latin America and since then spread all over the world, BRTs have a particular relevance for fiscally-constrained, developing nations because of their relatively modest cost but also their dramatic benefits in terms of urban mobility and air pollution reduction. 

Access to mobility for slum dwellers with easy low-cost solutions

Jorge Rebelo's picture
Photo: Scott Wallace / World Bank

If we had a magic wand to quickly ease the daily commute of millions of people from home-to-work, particularly in developing countries, we would certainly use it as much as we could.  Unfortunately, we often struggle to find quick solutions and end up with big projects which take very long to come to fruition.

Although big projects are often justified for economic efficiencies and greater impact, aren’t there any solutions that might quickly make that daily commute more accessible, affordable and acceptable?  Note that accessibility is just one of the factors that make travel easier to reach jobs, education, health and leisure facilities. Transport also must be affordable to low-income users  and also frequent and acceptable in the sense of comfort and safety. This is not the case in many poor emerging countries where daily commute can be an ordeal that might affect the productivity of workers who must worry to get to their jobs and return home safely.

Making Transport Climate-friendly

Pierre Guislain's picture
In Rio de Janeiro, more than a hundred energy-efficient Supervia trains help move 700,000 passengers a day, allowing the poor “Cariocas” living in the outskirts of the city to access their jobs, go to school and reach health centers.  Greenhouse emissions per passenger in those trains are only one-sixth of emissions generated by cars. This was made possible by a $811 million loan from the World Bank and a grant from ESMAP.
Supervia is one example of the World Bank’s transport operational focus: supporting sustainable solutions – universal, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly – to connect people and businesses to jobs, social services, and markets. In fiscal year 2015 alone, we have invested $5.3 billion in sustainable transport in 34 countries, contributing to the Rio+ pledge of $175 billion in sustainable transport funding from multilateral development banks over 2012-2022.
Photo: SuperVia/Imprensa RJ / Marcelo Horn

As we head towards COP21, one may wonder: “How many Supervias will it take to reach a 2 degree scenario? And where will the financing come from?”
Transport accounts for about 60% of global oil consumption, 27% of all energy use, and 23% of world CO2 emissions. With demand for mobility increasing exponentially, especially in developing countries, transport is the fastest growing source of GHG emissions. Inevitably, actions to reduce GHG emissions and stabilize climate warming at 2 degree Celsius, as agreed by the international community in 2009, will fall short if they do not include aggressive measures in the transport sector.
Yet, transport has until now taken a back seat in the climate negotiations. Transport has not been at the heart of the negotiations, the share of transport in climate finance has been very small, and donor support to and interest in transport has been minimal.

What will it take to accelerate progress on road safety?

Pierre Guislain's picture
As representatives from over 100 countries gather in Brasilia for the Second Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety on November 18-19, the question on everybody’s mind is: what will it take to meet the Sustainable Development Goals target of halving the number of fatalities and injuries from road crashes by 2020?
The latest evidence from a WHO report shows that global road death estimates have plateaued since 2007, at an unacceptable level of 1.25 million deaths per year. A different and bolder approach is clearly needed.

Three major areas require special attention: Africa and low income countries more generally, large middle-income countries, and sprawling urban centers.
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

Africa is the region with the highest death rates: at 27 deaths per 100,000 population in 2013, it was one and a half times the global average of 18. Road traffic fatality rates have actually increased in Africa over the past few years, despite decreases in other regions. More generally, Low-income Countries, which have just 1% of cars and 12% of the global population, nonetheless suffer 16% of total deaths from road crashes.
We also need to pay greater attention to middle-income countries like Brazil, China, and India which, due to their large populations and motorization rates, together contribute over 40% of the global deaths from road crashes.  
Furthermore, by 2050, the world will add 2.5 billion people to our cities, which already account for about half of road fatalities. In the cities, attention to speed management and improving facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists is very important.

Anti-harassment campaigns unite transport systems to change behavior worldwide.

Julie Babinard's picture
Photo: Henrik Berger Jørgensen / Flickr

France is the latest country to have announced a public awareness campaign in an effort to reduce sexual harassment in public transport. The campaign includes posters and a video with fictitious comments reflecting examples of inappropriate remarks that women hear while using today’s public transport. The public awareness campaign is part of a national plan to combat sexual harassment and echoes similar campaigns in other major cities, including New York and London. (Read story here)

Owing in part to national and global reports that have provided increasing evidence on the importance of the problem, public transport authorities and local officials are finally taking notice of sexual harassment. It is only recently that sexual harassment in public transport has risen at the forefront of policy discussions and has been exposed as a global problem. Alarming findings last year from a poll taken by the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on the world’s most dangerous systems for women. (Click here to discover more about the poll). The poll conducted in 15 of the world's largest capitals and in New York, the most populous city in the United States, concluded that six in 10 women in major Latin American cities had been physically harassed while using transport systems, with Bogota, Colombia, found to have the most unsafe public transportation, followed by Mexico City and Lima, Peru.

Several approaches have been considered to curb sexual harassment of women in public transport, ranging from setting up CCTV on platforms and improving lighting to launching women-only initiatives. Yet, there is no silver bullet for dealing with gender-based violence in transportation and urban settings. Options such as women only forms of transport have shown that segregating by gender are neither cost effective nor do they address the fundamental issues that trigger harassment.  

Rio: A hot city tackles global warming through mass transit

Daniel Pulido's picture
SuperVia, Rio de Janeiro / 2.0 Brasil

It is the end of another hot day in Rio de Janeiro. I’m tired and sweaty after spending the afternoon checking out the progress on some of the city’s train stations, which are being renovated for the upcoming Olympic Games. But I’m also happy, having witnessed the progress made in improving Rio’s suburban rail system, known as SuperVia, which the World Bank has been supporting for the last 20 years.

Transport or gender? A holistic approach is critical for achieving the SDGs

Catalina Crespo-Sancho's picture
Photo: World Bank Group

In an effort to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for humanity, the UN General Assembly recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs, with 17 goals and 169 specific targets, provide a more comprehensive vision of development than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, embrace economic, social and environmental dimensions, as well as encourage countries to end poverty and enhance social and economic development in a sustainable manner.  Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are committed to stepping up their support to ensure the SDGs’ success; making it essential to find innovative ways to help countries meet as many targets as possible.  

What a simple idea can do for sustainable transport

Nak Moon Sung's picture
This is the story of an idea. In fact, of a very simple and creative idea that is having huge impact on the way people move. This idea is helping reduce travel time, save money and increase the connectivity of big and small cities.
A map of South Korea's rest areas
and transfer points

So who is behind this brilliant idea? Actually, it is rather something that we all take for granted in developed countries, as well as some developing countries’ expressways or highways: the rest area.

We normally associate rest areas with a quick stop for food, gas or other necessities. But what if these rest areas could add even more value to transportation, and without huge expenses? This is precisely what the South Korean government did back in 2010 when it opened the first “Regional Buses to Regional Buses Transfer Centers,” utilizing rest areas along expressways. The idea was gestated at the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), one of the partners of the World Bank’s Transport and ICT global practice.

Since 2010, rest areas have played an effective role as “sub-hubs,” or transfer centers for regional buses, which in turn have more than doubled the number of regional routes, increasing the accessibility to smaller cities, and all this without having to go through the capital Seoul, where there is often too much traffic and congestion.

We know that bus transport is a more effective transportation mode than individual cars, particularly in terms of moving more people and reducing congestion and pollution. But in Korea, as well as other countries, there are several reasons why bus transport is less favored than cars, but one of the most important is a lack of accessibility to smaller cities. That is to say, bus transport cannot provide door-to-door service. In fact, accessibility in regional bus transport is worse than within cities mainly because regional buses tend to operate mostly non-stop services between larger cities.