Opinion Piece by Jean Todt, FIA President and UN Special Envoy for Road Safety
For a number of years now we have been complaining about the consequences of road crashes, the millions of premature deaths, the tens of millions of serious injuries that impair so many people for life. We have been documenting the progression of the scourge, gathering statistics, disseminating facts and figures. We have organized countless conferences, symposiums, workshops, to debate what to do to curb this seemingly unstoppable pandemics. Only early on we agreed on one thing: it actually was not unstoppable, and more to the point, we knew what needed to be done to stop it.
Of course over time we refined our approach, deepened our knowledge, improved our understanding of what worked best in which circumstances. Numerous institutions, including the World Bank and United Nations organizations, kept organizing training events to disseminate those findings and equip national and local governments with the tools they needed to fight this recurring disease. Then the international community took notice and the Decade of Action for Road Safety was launched with the objective of reversing the trend, of eventually bringing down for good the mounting statistics of road crashes.
But let’s face it: despite all the good will, despite these multiple efforts, despite all the talk and conferences, people keep dying on the road in unacceptable numbers.
So this is the time to change gears. This is the time to realize once and for all that a world in which 3,500 people die on the road every day for no reason can hardly be called civilized. This is the time to move away from figures, statistics and reports, and look at what this is all about. And this is about flesh and blood. This is about saving lives.
We may be reaching a turning point. Part of the reasons why so many efforts to date have met with too little success has to do with insufficient resources. The countries suffering most from road crashes are also those so much in need of support on so many fronts that it becomes hard for their governments to set aside funding for something too many development experts have long considered to be some kind of collateral damage of growth. Hopefully today nobody would claim this any longer, so all what remains is the need to find the proper means to deal with what should be a simple question, a question of life and death.
This week the United Nations General Assembly will establish the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund. We must all hope this will prove to be the tool we were missing in our quest to muster the resources needed to effectively turn the tide on road crashes.
Simultaneously the Safer City Streets network will meet in Rome for the third time, at the invitation of the International Transport Forum and with the support of the International Automobile Federation (FIA). Let’s not forget about half of fatal crashes occur in cities.
And in a month from now, the eleventh edition of the International Transport Forum will take place in Leipzig, under the theme Transport Safety and Security. This sequence must not be just another round of well-intentioned debates. It must epitomize a renewed global commitment, a renewed global will, so that when we meet again a year from now, in New York City, in Rome, in Leipzig, in any far corner of this world, we can see an actual downturn in road deaths and injuries.
It’s time to reclaim the right to call this planet a civilized place.
It’s time to get serious about saving lives.