An estimated 1.35 million people are killed on the world’s roads every year. Today, road traffic injuries have become the 8th leading cause of death for all age groups, according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety. It is also now the top leading cause of death for children and young adults age 5-29.
Thailand has one of the highest road traffic death rates in the world, with motorcyclists accounting for most of these deaths, according to a 2019 Bangkok Report by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital and largest city, has a population of 5.7 million and its number of registered vehicles in the city continues to grow at a rapid rate, including motorcycles, which make up 36% of all vehicles. In 2016, more than 850 people died on Bangkok’s roads.
While some road crashes can be predictable and preventable, efforts to systematically reduce crashes in resource-constrained environments have been stymied by lack of accurate, geo-referenced crash and health outcome data to support targeted interventions. As Michael Bloomberg said, “If you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it”.
In response to this, the World Bank and nine other partners joined the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety, a $125 million partnership program focused on reducing road deaths and serious injuries in ten selected cities in the developing world.
In addition to Bangkok, Thailand, the other cities include: Accra, Ghana; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Bandung, Indonesia, Bogota, Colombia; Fortaleza, Brazil; Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; Mumbai, India; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Shanghai, China.
Under the program, cities receive funding support for three full-time staff to work within city governments like the Traffic and Transportation Department of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) on their road safety initiatives.
“It’s an outstanding initiative that not only develops an evidence-based road safety strategy but also implements all components crucial for road safety operations – from infrastructure improvement, communication and advocacy to enforcement,” said Nuananong Pankumhang, Coordinator of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative on Road Safety in Bangkok. “Having international partners with specific expertise available helps ensure the quality of project implementation.”
Technical assistance from the World Bank and other collaborating organizations have been provided on training and capacity building. To date, over 450 specialists have been trained on road safety engineering.
As part of the Initiative, the World Bank, in partnership with the International Road Assessment Program and Chulalongkorn University, has undertaken assessments of more than 1,000 km of high-risk roads during 2015-2018. More than 8 km of roads have been improved since including roads on Asoke, Silom and Yaowarat areas.