Road deaths are projected to be the fifth leading cause of death in the world by 2030, the World Health Organization reports.
Together for Safer Roads (TSR), a coalition of 11 global private sector companies to improve road safety and reduce deaths and injuries from traffic crashes, is on a mission to cut that statistic in half.
The group, after releasing a whitepaper investigating global road safety, held a Nov. 10 webinar to share recommendations on how to reduce deaths and injuries on the world’s roads, with a particular focus on what the private sector could do.
Kenneth Moritsugu, former acting U.S. surgeon general, said it is the United Nations’ mission to cut worldwide road deaths in half within the next five years. In order for that to happen, he emphasized, there must be a focus on road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, investments in new technology, fleet operations, and enhanced public awareness.
“More resources and collaboration are needed across the board to improve the safety of roads,” he explained. “We need government commitment and capacity, roads need more attention, and more effective programs are needed to improve road user behavior. There are few low- or middle-income countries with well-funded road safety programs.”
The causes of the epidemic, he said, are under-resourced global bodies and limited funding from donor nations and charitable foundations.
“We must start with the government placing a higher priority on funding and on data capacity, particularly in developing countries,” Moritsugu added, noting significant gaps – such as vehicles lacking basic safety features and extremely poor roadways – remain in developing companies.
What can fleets and other businesses do about the problem?
For starters, Moritsugu said, businesses can work with local governments and community groups to support global car assessment programs, which make public vehicle safety ratings. He added that global companies could purchase higher safety rated vehicles for their fleets.
“Enhance the safety of their own drivers and vendor fleet operations – that’s what businesses can do,” he said, noting high performers can share best practices with other companies and consider adopting the ISO 39001 road safety management approach.
“The goal to avoiding 5 million deaths and 50 million serious injuries by 2020 will require mobilizing the public,” Moritsugu added. “Businesses can mobilize leadership and communications capabilities to involve the media, educate consumers and drive social discussions. We believe that the greatest good could be achieved in rapidly mobilized areas in middle-income countries, where deaths are rising fastest.”
Deaths in middle-income countries are rising fastest, the webinar noted, partly because of an increase in distracted driving in more developed countries.
When it comes to distracted driving and making roadways safer, Moritsugu explained that OEMs and other global businesses should:
- Research more affordable safety vehicles
- Partner with government to determine best way to integrate cars
- Support laws and enforcement related to drunk driving
- Support laws that prohibit texting and distracted driving
“Making roads safe is for everyone,” he said. “It is not a task that can be accomplished by any one sector of society. It requires an investment of time, jobs, and money, but that investment will pay off with safer, healthier people.”
The task force is taking its research and efforts to Brasilia on Nov. 18 through 20, where global leaders will meet for the Global High-Level Ministerial Meeting.