“Good governance is central to road safety”

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David Ward of Global NCAP, the worldwide network that test-crashes cars, talks about why governance matters for safe roads and how the new worldwide network of MPs he has helped launch will fight for reducing the number of traffic victims.


Why should road safety advocates get involved in discussing transport governance frameworks? Surely their priority ought to be the nuts and bolts of making roads and cars safer, and of teaching humans to take fewer risks in traffic?”

Good governance is central to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of road safety. Shared responsibility is the essence of the safe system approach to road injury prevention and sharing requires adherence to principles of good governance.  Having transparent and accurate road traffic injury data is essential to set priorities and develop policies that will work. Public support for road safety policies will also be stronger if they understand and trust the motivation for their introduction. That is why community engagement is a crucial aspect of good governance in road safety. If road traffic injury data is lacking or manipulated to understate the problem, then policy impacts will be negatively affected. And if corruption exists among agencies responsible for traffic rules, vehicle and driving licensing, this will totally undermine enforcement efforts to improve driver behavior. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the countries with the best performance in road safety generally have a similarly strong rating in good governance and respect for the rule of law.

It’s become a bit of a mantra among policy makers that engaging the public in decision-making leads to better results. Citizens may be more inclined to view such exercises as cosmetic. Can you give one or two examples where stakeholder dialogue has actually led to better road safety policies?

If you take police enforcement, for instance, there are some excellent examples where reforms designed to overcome corruption among traffic officers have been based around community engagement. This has helped to build public trust and support for stronger enforcement of measures such as seat belt wearing. Road safety campaigns in Costa Rica and Moldova have demonstrated this. Also in many countries support for action to curb speeding has been shown to be most successful when based on local community support.

You helped launch the “Global Network for Road Safety Legislators” last December. What void does this initiative fill, and what is its ambition?

 The Global Network for Road Safety Legislators intends to provide a platform to share good practice in road injury prevention among parliamentarians worldwide. Members of Parliament (MPs) can play a crucial role in the adoption of effective road safety policies and legislation. Their leadership can be decisive in helping to prevent the 3500 deaths that occur daily on the world’s road. On 8 May during the 2017 UN Global Road Safety Week the Network will launch a Manifesto #4 Road Safety which includes ten recommendations for parliamentarians worldwide to support the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety and the Sustainable Development Goal’s target to halve road deaths by 2020. The Manifesto, which has been approved by a cross-party group of senior MPs from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, the USA and the UK, also endorses a new ‘SAVE LIVES’ package of road injury prevention measures issued by the World Health Organisasafe-system-report-covertion. This policy package recommends that all UN Member States adopt of laws to tackle speeding, drink driving, non-use of motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraints, and the application of acceptable vehicle and road safety construction
standards. The MPs also recognize the importance of the Safe System approach and highlight the International Transport Forum’s recent report ‘Zero Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System’. They also propose a new global casualty reduction target to be achieved by 2030. Hopefully the Network and the Manifesto #4 Road Safety can provide some extra legislative muscle to eventually achieve a world free from road traffic fatalities.


David Ward is the Secretary General of the Global New Car Assessment Programme. (Global NCAP),  a worldwide network crash test programmes.  Youcan hear him speak on “UN Sustainable Development Goals: A game changer for transport planning”  on 31 May at the ITF’s 2017 Summit on “Governance of Transport”.