United Nations Urges Member States to Improve Road Safety

April 24, 2014


Children walking to school, South Africa

Trevor Samson / World Bank

  • With over 1.3 million deaths every year, road crashes have become a global pandemic.
  • A new UN resolution urges the international community to scale up road safety efforts. The resolution emphasizes the need to bolster multisectoral collaboration, protect vulnerable road users and promote vehicle safety
  • The UN also recognized the role of the Multilateral Development Banks Road Safety Initiative, coordinated by the World Bank-led Global Road Safety Facility.

The UN General Assembly recently adopted a resolution on the growing road safety crisis, urging Member States to take swift action particularly as the international community discusses the post-2015 development agenda. 

The UN also recognized the efforts of the Multilateral Development Banks Road Safety Initiative, coordinated by the World Bank-led Global Road Safety Facility, in supporting the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) which aims to halve road-related deaths and save five million lives by 2020. 

Titled “Improving global road safety”, the UN resolution, approved last week, notes that road traffic injuries are a major public health and development challenge 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.

The international community expressed concern that the number of road traffic deaths still remains “unacceptably high” with an estimated 1.3 million lives lost in 2010 according to World Bank data.

The UN resolution highlights that worldwide half of all road traffic deaths involve pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists, and that some developing countries lack adequate infrastructure and sufficient policies to protect these vulnerable road users.  It stresses the importance of implementing an integrated approach to sustainable transport and encourages the implementation of car assessment programs in all regions of the world to inform consumers about the safety of the cars they drive (read the full UN resolution).

" In many developing countries the lack of road safety wastes precious lives and is a drag to economic and social progress. This doesn’t have to be the case if we act in a concerted manner. "
Jose Luis Irigoyen, TWI

José Luis Irigoyen

Director for Transport, Water and ICT

Other important takeaways from the resolution include the following:

  • The resolution commends countries that have adopted comprehensive legislation and developed national plans that are in line with the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety.
  • Member States, international organizations, development banks and funding agencies, foundations, professional associations and private sector companies are invited to consider providing adequate and additional funding to activities relating to the Decade of Action.
  • Developing lasting solutions to end the global road safety crisis can be achieved only through multisectoral collaboration.
  • Member States are encouraged to consider enacting legislation on key risk factors for road traffic injuries (i.e. non-use of helmets, safety belts, excessive speed, etc.) to increase the proportion of countries with comprehensive legislation up to 50 per cent by the end of the Decade of Action.

The UN resolution, sponsored by the Government of the Russian Federation and co-sponsored by dozens of other countries, also welcomed the Government of Brazil’s offer to host the Second Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in 2015.

“We welcome this UN resolution which mirrors our own sense of urgency around this issue,”  says José Luis Irigoyen, director of the World Bank’s Transport, Water and ICT department. “In many developing countries the lack of road safety wastes precious lives and is a drag to economic and social progress. This doesn’t have to be the case if we act in a concerted manner.”

Funding and technical assistance by the Global Road Safety Facility played a substantial role in scaling up the World Bank’s record road safety lending on road safety from $56 million at the Facility’s inception in 2006 to of nearly $192 million in fiscal year 2013. , which is up 241% from the $56 million at the Facility’s inception in 2006. 

Over the past year, GRSF has supported 28 road projects funded by the Bank, focusing on various pillars of road safety:  safer infrastructure; greater institutional management capacity; more effective enforcement; better post-impact care; and greater research & development.  Some of the most recent results include the completion of 10 road safety management capacity reviews in eight countries.

"We look forward to supporting relevant government agencies in increasing road safety for all users,” says Tawia Addo-Ashong, program coordinator of the World Bank-led Global Road Safety Facility. “Scaling up efforts to address this critical development challenge is the responsibility of all stakeholders. More financial support and political leadership is crucial to achieve greater impact.” 

Transport for health

In the lead up to the UN General Assembly meeting, the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington launched a new report entitled Transport for Health: the Global Burden of Disease from Motorized Road Transport, which shows that safer and cleaner road transport is critical for achieving health and development goals around the world.

The report --for the first time--assesses the global health loss from the combined impact of road injuries and pollution that can be attributed to motorized transport.  Findings show injuries and pollution from vehicles contribute to six of the top 10 causes of death globally. Combined with the health losses from vehicle pollution, the road transport death toll exceeds that of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or diabetes.

The report also highlights the growth in road deaths and injuries globally, and their substantial impacts on maternal and child health. In addition to the  1.3 million deaths annually and 78.2 million nonfatal injuries warranting medical care,  road injury also is among the 10 leading causes of death in children ages 1 through 14, and among women ages 15 to 44.