FIA president Jean Todt addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly following the body’s approval of a resolution supporting coordinated global action in the fight to improve road safety around the world.
Todt, who is the United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety, is aiming to create a UN Road Safety Fund, which can be used to fight the road death pandemic through tools that have already been proven to be effective.
“Today is a big day for the road safety community," Todt said. “Together with the FIA High Level Panel members, we will do everything in our power to support the creation of this Fund, which would revolutionise road safety financing.
“I can’t think of any other public policy investment which would be more profitable when comparing its benefits to its costs. We have a responsibility to provide every person on this planet safer mobility.”
South Korean model
In a speech made at last year’s road safety forum in Mexico City, Todt explained that simple road safety education efforts in South Korea had helped reduce road deaths around schools by an impressive 95 percent.
“We have the answers,” he said. “We can eliminate road crashes around schools. This is not a fantasy, it is a question of will.
“We have examples where, with the right political support, dramatic progress has been made. In the early ‘90s over 1,500 kids were killed on their way to or from school annually in South Korea. Since 2010 it is less than 100 kids – a 95 percent decrease – but it is still 100 too many.”
The South Korean model is theoretically simple to implement: introduce speed limits of 30kph around schools, to be enforced through a combination of speed bumps and traffic cameras; make road safety education mandatory for children (10 hours per year helped make a difference); and increase penalties for drivers involved in accidents and traffic infractions inside school zones.
But even simple changes require additional funding, which is where the proposed UN Road Safety Fund comes in. Which isn’t to say that global road safety funding doesn’t already exist.
In 2005, the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility was established with the aim of helping “increase funding and technical assistance for global, regional and country level initiatives designed to enable low- and middle-income countries implement their own road safety programmes".
In 2011, the first year of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, the Road Safety Fund was launched to support the initiative. According to the World Health Organisation, “it directs small grants from a range of donors to governments and nongovernmental organizations to support road traffic injury prevention programmes in countries and communities.”
The following year saw the launch of the Bloomberg Philanthropies-backed Road Safety Grants Programme, which the WHO describes as having been created “to support nongovernmental organizations in Brazil, Cambodia, China, India, Kenya, Mexico, Russian Federation, Turkey and Vietnam to advocate for road safety policy changes and actions to reduce deaths and injuries as a result of road traffic crashes".
Unique funding solution
What separates these existing funding mechanisms from the proposed UN Road Safety Fund is the way in which money will be generated. Rather than relying on philanthropy and goodwill, the aim is to use innovative funding solutions – such as a global solidarity level similar to the “climate change tax” on air travel – to ensure that the necessary monies are raised.
At present, road safety is a matter of privilege, and not a basic human right.
While the statistics surrounding road traffic deaths are shocking – 1.3 million people are killed on the roads each year, with nearly 100 injured every minute – more shocking still is the fact that 90 percent of road deaths take place in the low- and middle-income countries that can only boast 53 percent of the world’s vehicles.
A global crisis requires a global response.
And it is to that end that the FIA High Level Panel for Road Safety – chaired by Todt, but with high-profile members representing government, business, and non-governmental organisations – is working on financing measures that can eventually be used to launch projects including capacity-building, advocacy, and injury prevention programmes, covering not only road users but also vehicle design and testing.