What will it take to accelerate progress on road safety?

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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.

 In New Delhi, for example, pedestrians make up for more than 50% of all road fatalities, largely due by crashes involving buses and heavy vehicles. On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City witnesses a disproportionate share of motorcycle-related deaths at about 76%.
Underpinning efforts on all these three fronts is the need to generate more reliable and timely data so governments, local stakeholders and donors can make more informed decisions and identify relevant solutions, and progress in the implementation of the SDG target can be tracked.
Delivering Results
A growing number of countries are making progress, and some are demonstrating that it is feasible to achieve significant reductions. Spain, for example, has reduced road fatalities by up to 70 per cent between 2001 and 2013. And with just 3 deaths per 100,000 people, Sweden is demonstrating that having a “Vision Zero” is not only a dream but can become a reality.
Replicating these successes in the developing world requires robust multi-stakeholder partnerships, encompassing governments, private sector, NGOs and international organizations, as well as collaboration across sectors and industries such as transport, health, insurance and education. 
The World Bank Group is fully committed to helping countries meet their SDG target.  Today, all World Bank road projects address road safety, and over the past 10 years our road safety lending has increased by more than 300%.
Through the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), which is supported by the UK, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the FIA Foundation, we have assisted developing countries by promoting and helping implement good international practices on road safety through multi-sectoral interventions. GRSF support has leveraged significant additional funds.
A GRSF intervention in Sao Paulo State (Brazil), for example, piloted the iRAP road inspection methodology over 4,000 km of roads.  The state government is expanding this to the State’s 20,000 km road network with financing from a World Bank loan that also finances actual improvements identified by these audits on a pilot basis. Furthermore, following the GRSF recommendation, Sao Paolo State established an interdepartmental road safety committee to coordinate interventions more effectively.  GRSF is keen to welcome additional partners to help achieve greater results in more countries.
Overall, the GRSF and World Bank have financed safety inspection surveys of more than 40,000 kilometers of high-risk roads in more than 13 countries. An assessment of 14,000 km of the above network demonstrates a potential to avoid 280,000 deaths and serious injuries over 20 years with adequate investments to implement the survey recommendations.
In Argentina, for example, there has been a 35 percent reduction of traffic-deaths on project roads supported by GRSF and the World Bank since 2011. In Nigeria, our technical assistance in management capacity, infrastructure safety, and road enforcement to the Federal Road Safety Corps has yielded an 11% reduction in deaths along project corridors.

In brief, meeting the SDG road safety target will take concrete and meaningful action from multiple stakeholders in many areas. The World Bank will increase the support it provides to countries in meeting their road safety targets at national and local levels, while mitigating the impact of road crashes on the poorest. 

The road ahead is hard, but worth travelling. We hope you join us in the ride.


Pierre Guislain

Senior Director, Transport and ICT, World Bank

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