Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 | Last Update : 06:32 PM IST
The International Road Federation’s 18th World Road Meeting will convene in New Delhi on November 13 and 14.
Road traffic injuries are estimated to become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, if no action is taken. Around 1.25 million lives are lost each year on the world’s roads and over 50 million people are left injured or disabled for life, as a result of a road crash.
Low- and middle- income countries account for the highest number of road traffic fatalities, despite having less than five per cent of the world’s registered vehicles. The Southeast Asian region suffers from around 316,000 deaths, accounting for 25 per cent of global road deaths, while comprising a large proportion of the global road traffic death toll. India accounts for over 10 per cent of the global figure, with 150,000 road deaths annually. Not only is this a growing concern and a personal tragedy for victims and their families, but a huge economic cost to the country, costing an estimated 3-5 per cent of GDP each year.
In my role as United Nations Secretary-General’s special envoy for road safety, I advocate for making road safety a priority and contribute to reducing the number of fatalities and injuries that occur on the world’s roads. Through building global partnerships with governments, civil society and the private sector, I advocate for sustained commitment from all relevant stakeholders to advancing and improving road safety, including through accession to UN Road Safety Conventions. It is my conviction that road crashes are largely preventable, and I am committed to addressing the growing road safety crisis and to saving lives.
It was in year 2011, when the increased global attention was drawn to the growing road safety crisis and a Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) was announced, directing the global community towards the path forward. The overarching goal of the Road Safety Decade to stabilise and reduce predicted levels of road traffic fatalities globally is built on five pillars, which are evidence-based strategies to meet these goals, relying on safer roads and infrastructure, safer vehicles, safer user behaviour, improved road safety governance and post-crash care.
In 2015, further momentum was built when road safety was incorporated into UN Sustainable Development Goal target 3.6 of halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020 and target 11.2 to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. This was a major step, demonstrating global commitment, but as we are increasingly dependent on road transport, no significant progress can be achieved without the same level of commitment from leaders at all levels.
The situation in India, like in many developing countries, is challenging, with rapidly growing population and increasing urbanisation contributing to rising vehicle ownership motorisation and, unfortunately, more road traffic deaths. Approximately half of all deaths on the country’s roads are among vulnerable road users — pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Children are being among the most affected. In addition, the increase in motorcycle use, including as a family vehicle, further contributes to intolerably high death rates.
When I meet road safety stakeholders and political leaders, I am pleased to see their willingness to take action towards improving road safety. Last month, I had the opportunity to meet India’s road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, and while there is much that must be done to further improve road safety, I found the Indian government’s recent efforts highly commendable. One example is the effort to move forward the amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act. If approved and implemented, the ambitious reform package would save many thousands of lives on the country’s roads.
Such measures are a major step towards reducing road crashes. I urge India to continue scaling up its efforts towards addressing a growing development crisis, which takes too many lives.
Jean Todt is the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for road safety