Beijing, May 11, 2011 - Michelle Yeoh, Asian film icon, Hollywood actress and Global Ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign, announced today the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety at an event in Beijing with Chinese government agencies and the World Bank.
"China shall be an important leader in shaping road safety in the world. The increase in the number of cars is rapid; the improvement in road safety measures can be equally rapid," Yeoh said of the country’s leadership role in promoting road safety. China joined over 100 other countries in committing to the goal of the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 to reduce road deaths by 50%, save up to 5 million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries.
Like other emerging economies in the world, China is undergoing rapid motorization as economic growth enables more people to afford motor vehicles. Take the capital Beijing as an example: it took the city 50 years to get its first million vehicles; 6.5 years to get its second million; 2 years to get its fourth million; and just 1 year to reach its fifth million in 2010.
Ninety percent of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in developing countries, which account for only 48% of the world's registered vehicles. In China, over 60,000 people die in road accidents each year and 270,000 get injured. As more cars hit the road, more roads are built and travel increases, the Chinese government has recognized the urgent need to meet the rising challenges in road safety.
China's Chances and Challenges
"China is presented with a unique opportunity to harness and adapt international best practice to improve its road safety results far more rapidly than high-income countries were able to achieve in the last century," said Klaus Rohland, World Bank Country Director for China. "Equally important is the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and provide successful solutions that set a benchmark for low and middle-income countries to emulate."
"As China develops, people's mobility is increasing a lot and cars have become much more affordable," said Wang Bin, vice director of the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Health. "However, people's awareness of road safety has not increased at the same pace. Now there is a big gap that needs to be filled."
Drunken driving, drowsy driving and driving without a license now happen more frequently in China than before, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Another worrying fact that affects the country's younger generation: according to a survey conducted in the city of Guangzhou, over 30% of primary school students and over 40% of high school students reported that they have violated traffic rules, such as not using pedestrian crossings in the street, or not complying with traffic signals.
China is one of the participants of the Road Safety in 10 Countries (RS10) project funded by the Bloomberg Family Foundation to expand road safety to low- and middle-income countries. The project will be implemented from 2010 to 2014 by a consortium of six international partners, including the World Bank.
Dalian, a coastal city in Northern China, and Suzhou, a historical and cultural city in Southern China, have been selected as the pilots for this project. Wang Yeyuan, vice director of the Health Bureau of Suzhou, said that his city has made significant efforts since the launch of the project last October. "We provided skills training to professionals that work in traffic injury prevention, ran city-wide promotion campaigns for road safety, conducted speed monitoring on more than 1,500 cars and collected data on drinking and driving and on speeding through a large-scale survey," he said. He also called on other cities in China to act together with Suzhou and Dalian to build a safer city for every resident.
The World Bank's Strategy to Assist on Road Safety
The World Bank has partnered with China over the past three decades to introduce road safety measures. Since the end of last year, the Bank is working to help create a new road safety engagement strategy for China that strengthens the lead agency role, calls for multi-sectoral collaboration and sets up innovative, safe system demonstration projects that can share this knowledge at both national and international levels.
The main goals of this engagement strategy include:
- Strengthening road safety leadership and coordination
- Targeting the unique road safety problems of mixed traffic/mixed speed road environments
- Improving road safety standards and rules and people's awareness of and compliance with them
- Monitoring and evaluating road safety performance more systematically
- Accelerating global knowledge transfer and scientific innovation
In addition, infrastructure development such as building roads accounts for a large portion of the World Bank's portfolio in China, since it is essential to economic development and poverty reduction. "We have the responsibility to make roads safe, to ensure people arrive home the same way they leave home every day," said Fei Deng, a senior transport specialist at the World Bank.
"We are proud to be engaged as a partner with China to work together to reduce road safety harm, to protect road users, and to make what will be, if successful, the dominant contribution to the achievement of the global initiative on this Decade of Action," said Rohland.