Materials designed for an anti-speeding campaign as part of World Bank efforts to improve road safety in Laos.
With an expanding road network and rapid rise in vehicle ownership, road safety has become a major public health issue in the Lao PDR. Road crashes are the leading cause of death among children and young people, and the single greatest cause of disability across all age groups. Cumulatively, the impact on the national economy is substantial, leading to estimated economic losses of around five percent of GDP.
Efforts to reduce road trauma in Laos face several challenges. Much of the existing road network does not follow safe design principles; road planners and engineers have limited knowledge and experience; there are gaps in policies and regulations; compliance with traffic rules is weak; and emergency care and rehabilitation services are rudimentary. Moreover, development partner support for road safety is limited.
Since 2019 the World Bank Laos country team has made two successful grant applications to the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), a global multi-donor fund which is hosted by the World Bank and helps governments develop road safety management capacity and scale up road safety in low- and middle-income countries.
The first GRSF grant (FY2020-21) supported a road safety capacity gap assessment, which contributed to a new national strategy on road safety and a five-year action plan. The grant also enabled practical field research that quantified the prevalence of risky driving. The data, which shows speeding and drunk-driving to be pervasive, is now supporting evidence-based policy making.
The second GRSF grant (FY2021-22) focused on speed management through:
- training for road designers on setting speed limits appropriate to road conditions;
- engaging senior policy makers in the National Road Safety Steering Committee on the connection between speed and road trauma;
- installing the country’s first raised pedestrian crossing as a demonstration of speed control infrastructure; and
- a social media campaign to raise public awareness on speed and road trauma.
These initiatives are delivering tangible results and have been crucial in maintaining the momentum of road safety reform in Laos. They also provide valuable lessons, which the World Bank country team use in ongoing road investment projects. With a new ten-year National Road Safety Strategy in place, which includes an ambitious target of reducing road traffic deaths by half, Laos is now well positioned to mobilize development partner assistance in this vital sector.