Road safety is everyone's responsibility. Mine too.


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Here is a quiz question for you: "You are driving on a highway and you suddenly realize that you just missed the intended exit ramp. What would you do?"  Most people would hopefully say “Go to the next exit ramp.” However, as we recently found out, 12% of truck drivers in China said: “Back up or turn-around to the missed exit ramp.”

This was one of examples of unsafe driver behaviors presented by Professor Xiaoduan Sun, PhD and PE at the University of Louisiana and Beijing University of Technology. 


In her presentation made at the World Bank, Professor Sun talked about the seriousness of the road safety problems in China, the ways in which the government is addressing the issue as well as remaining challenges and suggestions for how the World Bank can continue and increase its involvement in road safety. 

Every day, more than 3,200 people die from road traffic injuries; low and middle-income countries account for 90% of the deaths.  And road traffic deaths and injuries are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030 (with HIV/AIDS being number 10).  That’s why we are already taking action. In 2005 the World Bank established the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) to increase funding and technical assistance, and our work with it since then has helped to reduce fatalities and injuries. Most World Bank road projects today have road safety components included; setting specific performance targets to reduce road trauma is becoming the norm.

The World Bank has recently approved a loan for Argentina specifically for road safety (Argentina Road Safety Project). Similarly to China, the factors contributing to most road traffic crashes in Argentina include unsafe driver behavior (speeding, recklessness, low personal perceptions of risk, etc). Deteriorating transport infrastructure, poorly designed roads, limited signaling and ineffective traffic enforcement of safety related laws (speed limits, drunk driving, motorcycle helmet and seat belt) also contribute to Argentina’s road safety conditions. And crucially, until recent institutional reforms were made, the absence of a lead agency responsible and accountable for national road safety performance seriously undermined efforts to bring about systematic improvements. The Argentina Road Safety Project supported by the World Bank loan will reduce the number of deaths by strengthening lead agency management capacity and the broader institutional framework for road safety and by targeting the reduction of road crashes in selected pilot corridors. 

The Bank has extensive experience in road safety around the world.  For instance, we recently published “Country Guidelines for the Conduct of Road Safety Management Capacity Reviews and the Specification of Lead Agency Reforms, Investment Strategies and Safe System Projects.” They include best practice case studies from Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Malaysia, Poland and Australia. 

We welcomed the opportunity to discuss suggestions on how the Bank can work with the Chinese authorities to make Chinese roads safer.  Some of the ideas Professor Sun shred with us included:

  • Promote Safety being #1 Priority among Chinese Transport Authorities
  • Help to Improve Lead Agency Management and Top Level Government Coordination of Road Safety Strategies, Policies and Programs
  • Help to Develop Safety Policies and Programs with Focus on Severe Problem Areas
  • Help to Develop Operational Procedures and Financial Mechanisms
  • Fund Studies outside Specific Infrastructure Loan Projects for Identifying Root Problems
  • Promote Data Reporting and Data Sharing as a Key Element for Road Safety R&D


Road safety is a development priority. The sheer scale of the negative economic and social impacts arising from the death and injury toll accompanying rapid rates of motorization especially in the developing countries call for immediate action.  China and Argentina are just two, among many countries, that are addressing the issue.  But much more needs to be done.  The time is now. 

Photos of girls crossing the street and buses in China going against traffic courtesy of Sam Zimmerman.



Said Dahdah

Transport Specialist

Join the Conversation

Anil Mishra
October 06, 2010

Said ,

I understand you look after safety in south asia too. Some of the rules/Coustoms/ideas are universal as Professor Sun suggested for china, they apply to countries in south asia too:

-Promote Safety First,
-Fund Studies for Identifying Root Problems with involvement of non governmental orgnisations, local governments, universities etc.
-Promote Data Reporting and Data Sharing as a Key Element for Road Safety. In south asia data collection and reporting is the most important step in improving road safety.

I am willing to discuss more with you especially keeping in mind the developing countries. And in anyway if i can contribute to iRAP as an individual as a comapny.



Henry Kamau
September 29, 2010

Vehicle population growth in develping and underdeveloped countries has increased dramatically in recent years accompanied with unprecedented conjestion in their cities.

Vehicle Safety should be introduced into school curriculums in these countries as a long term measure that has a high potential of changing social attitudes towards safer driving and awareness builing in the majority pedestrian and non-motorised transport population.

Patricio Marquez
October 14, 2010

In full agreement with the important of road safety as a cross-sector development priority.

In Europe and Central Asia, a robust partnership has been established between the Transport and the HNP teams, as well as WHO, to focus on this challenge. See recent work:

Main Report:
"Confronting “Death on Wheels” Making Roads Safe in Europe and Central Asia" 2009.

Permanent URL for this page:

Brief: Dangerous Roads: Russia’s Safety Challenge July 2010, Volume 27

Brief: Confronting 'Death on Wheels': Making Roads Safe in ECA January 2010, Volume 15

Nicole Fontein
March 15, 2011

Background of the course:

In many low and medium income countries (LMIC’s) the number of road traffic fatalities increases rapidly.

International programs and funds are made available to stop this process. Road safety programs on education, engineering and enforcement are developed through initiatives from many partners participating in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration, such as international agencies, WHO, World Bank, governments, foundations, NGO’s, et cetera.

Capacity building is considered as a central element in these programs.
International programs should focus on the development of a strong road safety organization and the development of an educational structure that supports this organization. The Dutch Foundation Road Safety for All provide supportive actions for such developments. In the period 1970 – 2010 the Netherlands have developed an outstanding road safety position.

The mortality rate has become one of the lowest in the world. Based on our international road safety knowledge we prepare an educational program for international students and professionals as a contribution to the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. Our lecturers are from universities and institutes with the highest international reputation.

The course is targeted on road safety professionals, that are or will be active in road safety for a substantial part of their professional career, with a background in engineering, behavioral sciences, public health, law enforcement, transportation/land use planning, statistics, economics, education and public policy.

Road safety professionals play or will play a role as ‘trainer’, e.g. affiliated to research. This target group might work at central or regional public authorities, universities, research institutes, police or NGO’s.

Please go to the website for more information.