WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 — Seven multilateral development banks today announced a joint initiative to improve road safety and stem rising road deaths and injuries in developing countries, and meet targets of the UN Decade for Road Safety 2011-2020.
With 1.3 million people killed and up to 50 million injured every year in road crashes, 90 percent of them in developing countries, traffic accidents have become the leading cause of death for young people aged 5 to 29. Road crashes now kill more people worldwide than malaria.
“In developed countries, road fatalities are going down but in developing countries they are surging because of increased road building, motor vehicles and dangerous traffic mixes that pit vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, against a growing tide of cars and trucks,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Unless well-targeted measures are taken, there will be an escalating death toll on the roads in poor countries, which would be a terrible tragedy.”
Zoellick urged countries to invest in road safety, and called on donors to provide funds through the new initiative. Both financing and capacity-building in developing countries are needed, he said, to meet the goals of the UN Decade. The goal is to reduce the forecast 2020 level of road deaths by 50 percent, from 1.9 million to under one million a year. Achieving the 2020 target could save up to five million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries.
“We must make road safety a more urgent priority in the development assistance provided by multilateral development banks for road projects,” Zoellick said. “Otherwise, the cost to developing countries is too great. We must deliver the needed resources to create transformational change for safety.”
He added that leaders of the Multilateral Development Banks’ Road Safety Initiative are committed to building partnerships and raising funds from governments, the private sector and voluntary organizations to support projects in developing countries. The initiative has been coordinated by the Global Road Safety Facility.
Also present at World Bank headquarters for the event were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a committed advocate and donor to road safety issues, and actress Michelle Yeoh, Global Ambassador of the Make Roads Safe Campaign.
Partners of the Multilateral Development Banks’ Road Safety Initiative include the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the World Bank.
The initiative calls for an integrated Safe System approach which promotes shared responsibility for ensuring safe mobility, and starts with countries naming a lead agency to direct a national road safety strategy.
The Safe System approach recognizes that human error is inevitable and should not be punished by death or serious injury. It calls for road transport systems designed and operated to ensure far greater protection for all their users. This depends on a shared responsibility for safety among all partners and stakeholders to align safety management decision-making with a country’s economic, human and environmental goals. Ultimately, a Safe System depends on increasing public awareness of and demand for safe road transport services and products.