Commission for Global Road Safety
Road traffic crashes kill an estimated 1.3 million people a year and injure between 20-50 million more. More than ninety per cent of casualties occur in middle-income and low-income countries; The United Nations has launched the ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020’, describing road injury as “major public health problem with a broad range of social and economic consequences which, if unaddressed, may affect the sustainable development of countries and hinder progress towards the Millennium Development Goals”;
There is growing recognition that improving road safety can also contribute to achieving the MDGs, particularly in relation to child mortality, access to healthcare (on safe roads), and universal access to education (a million children are killed or seriously injured each year in road crashes, the majority as pedestrians). Unicef has urged that action to prevent injuries in the second decade of a child’s life should become “a major international health objective”;
Addressing road safety will also help to achieve environmental objectives, including action on climate change, particularly through providing a safer road system for users of non-motorised transport, such as pedestrians and cyclists, the most vulnerable road users. Providing safe facilities for non-motorised transport, and encouraging affordable and safe public transport, can reduce demand for modal shift to the car. According to the UN Environment Programme, such policies can make “a large, lasting impact…on fuel use, congestion, air quality and CO2 emissions… It is also one of the most cost-effective actions for saving hundreds of thousands of lives”;
Many developing country governments, and large institutions like the World Bank, are beginning to recognise the need to prioritise road safety in the context of a sustainable transport system. But progress is slow. The gap between an institution acknowledging the issue and achieving sustained action can be bridged if road safety is included within the framework of a major international sustainability conference;
The priorities agreed at international fora like Rio+20 set the global agenda and issues that are absent from the agenda are subsequently neglected and under-funded. This is why it is so important that action to improve road safety and promote sustainable modes of transport is included in the agenda and outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference.
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