by Vision Zero Network March 30, 2020 in Global Lessons, International, News

Part 2: Saving Lives Beyond 2020: An Inside Perspective from a Global Road Safety Expert

By Jeff Michael, guest contributor

This is part two in a five-part series sharing perspectives from various participants in the 3rd Global Road Safety Conference in February 2020, which set the goal of halving traffic deaths globally in the next 10 years. You can read the full series and our webinar on the same topic here.

Jeff Michael, EdD is a Distinguished Scholar at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Previously, he was Associate Administrator for Research and Program Development at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  

I was fortunate to be a member of the Academic Expert Group (AEG) convened by the Swedish Transport Administration to inform the Third Ministerial Conference on Global Road Safety.   It was a pleasure to work with people I have admired for years and participate in their discussions about what has worked over the past decade and how we can build on that experience in the coming decade.

The AEG produced a report, Saving Lives Beyond 2020: The Next Steps, that lays out a strategic direction and details nine specific recommendations for progress.  I think the strategic direction proposed by the AEG is quite interesting from the American perspective. The following graphic illustrates this direction by describing an evolution of global road safety.

The concept here is that many countries started making progress in road safety by developing a comprehensive set of tools. This essential step involved years of research and validation and resulted in a collection of techniques known by the global road safety community as the 5 Pillars of Road Safety. In the U.S. experience, these are known as the 4 E’s of road safety – Education, Enforcement, Engineering and Emergency Medical Care.

The next stage of evolution that some (but far from all) countries have undertaken is to begin adopting the Safe System approach as a means for selecting, applying and expanding the benefit from these road safety tools.

The higher level of evolution – and one that no country has yet achieved – is to integrate application of both the road safety tools and the Safe System approach with the global movement to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The message in this trajectory is that the most critical challenge for the global road safety movement is not in the development of better tools, but rather in the effective utilization of these tools in nations around the world. The AEG recognizes that new and better tools will always be needed. But they point out that our current efforts to put these tools into action, especially in low- and middle-income nations where over 90% of global road deaths occur, are insufficient for substantial progress.

Opportunity to Connect Road Safety & Other Goals

The AEG points to the SDGs as an opportunity.  One of the key achievements over the past decade was the inclusion of road safety as a target under two of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Public and private sector organizations around the world will be expected to contribute to these goals, and applying their resources to road safety could be an efficient means for them to make a measurable and reportable difference.

The AEG further points out that the 17 SDGs are inter-related and that contributions to road safety will extend beyond the direct benefits of preventing traffic injuries and deaths. Adopting the AEG recommendations could also contribute to goals related to climate by reducing and slowing traffic, to gender equity by making streets safer to travel by women of all ages, to the eradication of poverty by improving access to jobs, to workplace safety, and others.

Reaching this higher level of road safety evolution requires a new way of thinking, a focus on how governments and businesses large and small can implement road safety measures as a sustainability contribution. The AEG believes that this is one of our central challenges for the next decade.

Alignment of Approaches

From the American perspective, the evolution of road safety described by the AEG looks somewhat familiar. Two years ago, U.S. road safety constituents examined our road safety situation and proposed our own three-part trajectory that we called the Road to Zero.

The first element of the Road to Zero vision is Redoubling What Works, an approach that is essentially similar to Strengthening the Five Pillars, the first step in the trajectory described by the AEG. The second steps of the two trajectories are also remarkably similar, with adoption of the Safe System approach playing an important role in both. The third elements of the two trajectories differ – but for understandable reasons. While the U.S. Road to Zero vision focuses on the need for Advancing Technology in the American context, the global trajectory described by the AEG considers the challenge of reaching low- and middle-income nations around the world and stresses the importance of expanding our reach through integration with the SDGs.

From my perspective, I find this concurrence of views reassuring. When groups of insightful road safety experts gather, whether in Washington, D.C. or in Stockholm, they arrive at similar conclusions regarding the way forward. Now we just need to get it done.

This is part two in a five-part series sharing perspectives from various participants in the 3rd Global Road Safety Conference in February 2020, which set the goal of halving traffic deaths globally in the next 10 years. Read the full series here.

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