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Road Safety Needs Integrated Public Policies

30 March 2015|Op-ed

Ricardo Sánchez, Officer-in-Charge of ECLAC’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Division, explains the path that the region’s countries will tread towards the global conference to be held on this issue in Brazil in November 2015 (published in ECLAC Notes Nº 83).

Throughout the world the injuries caused by traffic accidents constitute a major public health problem that has a broad range of social and economic consequences.

The efforts to address this issue at a global level, which culminated in the 2010 launching of the Decade of Action for Road Safety by the United Nations General Assembly and in the inclusion of road safety targets in the post-2015 development goals, illustrate the persistent challenges to achieving safe mobility in the context of sustainable development.

Road safety continues to be a matter of great concern in Latin America and the Caribbean due to its high rates of urbanization and motorization—despite national and multilateral campaigns carried out as part of the Decade of Action.

In the period from 2000 to 2010, not only did the number of deaths and injuries related to traffic accidents rise in some countries, but some road safety controls were also relaxed. In addition, the issue of road safety is closely linked to inequality in the region since deaths are concentrated primarily among pedestrians—the most vulnerable users of routes.

As ECLAC has already emphasized in its activities and studies, the diverse causes of traffic accidents in the region necessitate integrated public policies that combine short, medium and long-term actions in areas as diverse as road infrastructure, the design and condition of vehicles, the behavior of transportation users, education, the health system, and the oversight and enforcement of measures.

Given the complexity of the phenomenon and the diversity of actors involved, road safety institutions must explicitly take into account how different bodies (of the State, civil society and private sector) interact, both on a local and regional level, and focus their actions on specific users of the roads.

In this context, it is highly significant that one of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean has offered to host in November 2015 the global high-level conference that aims to review—at the halfway point—progress on the Decade of Action for Road Safety. Brazil’s decision to serve as the site for the second United Nations conference on road safety reaffirms the profound recognition of the challenges that traffic accidents pose to regional efforts to achieve development goals with equality and social inclusion.

In preparation for the conference in Brazil, ECLAC and the Pan American Health Organization will update information on the road safety situation in the region and evaluate the results of public policies and public-private cooperation aimed at reducing the rate of traffic accidents.

The objective is to support a dialogue on the region’s challenges and best practices on the occasion of the global conference and reaffirm the regional commitment to achieving the concrete and ambitious goals of safe and sustainable mobility.