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Rocky roads: reducing road deaths

Rocky roads: reducing road deaths
05 Jun
Road collisions remain a leading cause of deaths and injuries around the world, casting doubt upon UN aspirations to halve the total number

In September 2015, 169 targets were adopted within the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which – Target 3.6 – reads: ‘By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents’. Nearly three years later, the number of annual deaths due to road collisions remains a stubbornly high 1.25-1.3 million (with 50 million injured).

Crucially, 90 per cent of these deaths occurred in developing countries experiencing rapid urbanisation, particularly poor young working men who are forced into dangerous traffic situations when walking, cycling, or motorcycling (road collisions are now the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 years).

‘We are increasingly equipped with better knowledge about the types of interventions that can reduce fatalities and serious injuries caused by traffic collisions,’ says Daniel Harris, researcher at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). ‘These deaths and their enormous social and financial tolls are not inevitable, yet we have seen little progress.’

bogotaPublic safety measures have seen Bogotá's streets become far less deadly

Both the ODI and the World Resources Institute (WRI) are now making suggestions on how to reduce these fatalities and injuries, highlighting the examples set by cities such as Bogotá, Colombia, an urban environment in a developing country which saw significant reductions in traffic deaths, by over 60 per cent, between 1996 and 2006. Their suggestions include decentralising road powers to city mayors, building alliances between different stakeholders with an interest in road safety, and reframing the debate around the broader theme of ‘public safety’, as ways to get the public and policy makers to pay attention to the issue.

‘It’s clear that there is a political dimension to reducing road deaths,’ says Anna Bray Sharpin, transportation associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. ‘It is important that those trying to improve road safety focus as much on building the political case as on the technical solutions.’ They also emphasise that meeting SDG Target 11.2 (‘By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all’) will go a long way to cutting the total number of deaths and injuries.

This was published in the June 2018 edition of Geographical magazine

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