18 Jul 2017
Our Director of Partnerships on halving global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.


I’m in New York, having been invited to participate in an Informal Expert Consultation by the Health is Everyone’s Business Action Platform of the UN Global Compact (UNGC). The UNGC is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative and calls for businesses to act sustainably and do their part to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNGC has developed a number of Action Platforms to help focus attention around different goals and targets.

The Health is Everyone’s Business Action Platform is the Action Platform for SDG3 which covers Good Health and Well-being and is a call to Ensure Healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. This SDG contains a target which specifically relates to Road Safety; Target 3.6, which is:

By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.

Prior to the meeting, we were given a series of objectives and questions upon which to reflect when preparing for the discussion. What can we do to help businesses to take corporate responsibility? How best can we engage government, civil society, academics and businesses to meet the potential offered by the platform and what opportunities exist to do so?

Being at this meeting feels like a really exciting opportunity to make a direct contribution in helping to define Corporate and Social Responsibility around SDG3, and especially around Target 3.6, to look at how the Corporate Sector can contribute to the target and how it is already making a contribution.

The Background

Road crashes kill 1.25 million people every year. Putting it another way, that’s over 3,500 people per day – one person every 25 seconds.

50 million people are seriously injured globally – that’s over 100,000 people every day that face amputations, quadriplegia, paraplegia, severe brain injury, burns, degloving, loss of sight/eye, dislocations, fractures1. This is a major public health problem and needs to be treated as such.

Unlike high visibility transport disasters like plane or train crashes, the continuous daily toll of road deaths and injuries are only visible to those directly affected2.

Linked to this problem is often a lack of knowledge or understanding that there is anything we, as individuals, as organisations, as governments, can do to prevent road trauma.
And therefore road safety often doesn’t get the attention or funding that it needs to make a real difference.

But this perception simply isn’t true. There is a lot we can do. Crashes are entirely predictable and preventable and there is a huge body of knowledge and experience that exists in countries where they have implemented measures to prevent them and the death and injury toll has fallen3. This knowledge has been made available through many channels in recent years e.g. the International Transport Forum (2016) and WHO Save Lives – a Road Safety Technical package (May 2017) – which contains evidence-based measures that have been used in these countries.

The link between road safety and inequality

One of the questions asked on the discussion paper was what we consider the most important threats to long term global health and well-being. Personally, I feel that climate change and the increasingly unequal distribution of income and resources both globally and within countries are especially worrying. My strong feeling is that both need to be addressed urgently and with as much energy and human, governmental and organisational unity as possible. Road safety has always been a strong contributor to the growing inequality in the world and, unlike many other factors, it can be directly addressed. 90% of road deaths happen in low and middle income countries. 50% of deaths are vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists. Not to mention children, the elderly, people who are disabled.

Even in the USA, 65% of pedestrian deaths and severe injuries happen on 6% of the streets i.e. mostly in low income areas with poor investment in roads. If you are a pedestrian with low income or a person of colour, you are twice as likely to be affected by a crash4.

In the developing world, road crashes can have even more terrible consequences – households can be plunged into poverty and debt if they lose a breadwinner/income earner and, as road crashes are the leading cause of death for males between 15-29 years old, this can be the case. Often there is no safety net or insurance to protect people so deaths and injuries can lead to people becoming completely impoverished and family structures falling apart5. In 2009, while I was working for the Make Roads Safe Campaign in Bangladesh, I visited the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Savar. Over 30% and up to 40% of patients were there because of the severe road injuries they had suffered. Some of them had simply been abandoned by their families because they couldn’t afford to support them anymore or even to continue to visit them.

Safe mobility is also a human right. It gives people access to jobs, to resources, to education. The Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility suggests that the health and life chances of millions of people are held back by inequitable access to mobility6. It’s also good for the health of children to have access to safe roads to walk and cycle. The World Resources Institute predicts that today’s children could be the first generation who live less than their parents due to inactivity7.

Finally there is a huge disparity in higher income countries where measures have been taken to make roads safer and countries with lower incomes where these measures haven’t been taken which also makes it an important social justice issue. Often it is the people with the lowest incomes and who face the most deprivation who are affected by unsafe roads both within countries and globally. The same is true of cars.

Road safety isn’t just an issue for the ‘community’

One point that I feel is very important for the Health is Everyone’s Business Action Platform to consider is that Road Safety isn’t just an issue for the community. It is also an issue for the workplace, the marketplace and beyond. The concept of dealing with road safety as a community issue has not been the driving force behind countries that have successfully reduced their levels of death and injury on the roads. What has driven success is the initial decision that no one must die on the roads8. From this crucial stand made by a government (which started with Sweden in 1997 and has since been followed by other governments and even cities), came every other decision about how to tackle the issue. Changes to infrastructure, enforcement, education were all made with this concept in mind; that the most important action for the system is to protect the lives of all the fragile and vulnerable human beings within it.

This safe system approach highlights the important fact that a person can be very educated about safety and might even be the most safety conscious and aware pedestrian or driver in the world, but if the infrastructure or vehicle isn’t supportive of their safety, then in the one moment where they or another road user makes an error of judgement (even a very small one), their injuries in an ensuing crash can be worse or they will be more likely to die in that crash. There are still many roads in the world that don’t have pavements for pedestrians to walk on or safe places for them to cross. A 2013 Kenya study revealed that 70% of pedestrians who suffered road crashes were hit while they were crossing the road, 10% while just standing on the roadside and 8.1% while walking along the road9.

Similarly there are still new vehicles being manufactured that don’t have seatbelts or seatbelt anchorages which prevent the seatbelt from slipping during a crash, that don’t have airbags, that have weak structural integrity, that have no proper facilities for child restraint systems. All these factors make a difference to an adult or child’s ability to survive a crash.

What the private sector can do

The private sector has a major role to play in enhancing safety. The first thing companies need to do is realise that they can contribute to road safety. Ideally everyone should play a role, firstly recognising the huge importance of the issue and secondly realising that we can all make a contribution.

Where private contractors are part of the road building – they must make sure they build 3 star roads.

Car manufacturers – must agree to a minimum floor for car safety which should be to pass the UN’s most basic safety regulations10.

There is also a huge contribution to be made to Workplace safety. This also relates to SDG8 which asks us to Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Target 8.8 relates specifically to protecting labour rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers. It’s been estimated that in the Australia, the EU, the USA work-related motor vehicle crashes cause between a quarter and over a third of all work-related deaths11. In low and middle income countries, fleets make up more than 32% of vehicles in use. EU Statistics about workplace safety show that Coal mining causes 1 in 7,500 deaths, Car driving (25k miles a year) 1 in 8,000 deaths, Construction 1 in 10,000. If we compare these statistics with deaths in Service industries which are 1 in 150,000, we can see that driving for work is one of the most dangerous activities people can undertake12. European Transport Safety Council figures also show that 40% of all crashes in Europe are work-related13 and this figure varies from country to country, in Poland some 60% of crashes involve someone driving for work purposes. In the UK 200 deaths and seriously injured per week involving drivers at work14.

There are guiding documents which can help to improve fleet safety – for example the Global NCAP Fleet Safety Guide which was updated in November 2016 and also ISO 39001 which lays out best practice in road safety management. Businesses need to be aware of these and adopt them. In some regions, fleets make up as many as 50% of new car purchases, so if they demand safer vehicles, this hugely pushes up the demand for safer vehicles.

In regions where there is already a minimum floor for safety like Europe, the US and others companies can demand features like Autonomous Emergency Braking and Intelligent Speed Adaptation.

It also makes very good business sense to take safety seriously. Michelin has cut its road crash rate by more than 50% in the last five years and has adopted a target of zero incidents after reporting a reduction in crash damage costs of 46% and significant savings in indirect costs including vehicle hire and driver time15.

Manufacturers also have an important role to play in responsible advertising and not glamorising speed. They can and should use NCAP safety ratings to promote their car and also create more of a safety culture .

Global NCAP has also noticed that there is some selective reporting by companies about the safety performance of their vehicles. Some companies that participate in global sustainable reporting leave cars out in regions where they have performed poorly. Honest reporting could make an important contribution to the debate and ultimately lead to an advancement of safety goals.

What the private sector is doing

There are many examples of corporates and businesses showing great responsibility and leadership with their marketing. For example mobile and telecommunications companies are really embracing Corporate Social Responsibility where safety is concerned. They have taken a strong lead in helping to develop technologies which prevent people from being able to use their phones while driving16. Apple recently introduced a ‘do not disturb feature’ on the iPhone IOS 11 which blocks any communication while the person is driving17.

Another great example of the corporate contribution to safety and target 3.6 is the Stop the Crash Partnership, which I am extremely proud to say is led by Global NCAP. The partnership includes civil society partners such as our organisation, Consumers International, and the Towards Zero Foundation; corporate partners like Robert Bosch, Continental, Denso, ZF, ITT Motion (some of whom are already members of the UN Global Impact) and technical partners such as Thatcham Research and the ADAC.

The partnership promotes key crash avoidance technologies:

1. Electronic Stability Control – an anti-skid technology

Seventeen different studies which took place between 2001 and 2007 have shown ESC to be extremely effective, reducing single-vehicle crashes by approximately 30% as well as reducing the risk of opposing-traffic crashes and roll-over crashes, especially for Sport Utility Vehicles18. ESC is now mandatory in many high income countries. In the European Union, where ESC became a mandatory requirement in all new cars from November 2014, it is estimated that it prevented at least 188 500 injury crashes saved and more than 6 100 lives since 199519.

2. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

This is the follow-on technology from ESC. This system detects upcoming collisions and automatically brakes if the driver does not act quickly enough. A 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), using US police-reported crash data, shows that AEB reduced rear-end crashes by about 40% on average20. According to data from Continental, AEB brakes your car five times faster than the average driver is able to21.

3. Anti-Lock Brakes for Motorcycles

This system is very important for powered two wheelers. In the US the rate of fatal crashes has been estimated to be 37% lower for motorcycles equipped with optional ABS than for those same models without ABS22.

The main activity at the Stop the Crash bi-annual global events are ‘high level’ vehicle demonstrations of the three key crash avoidance technologies and related testing of tyre performance. VIP guests, opinion leaders, fleet managers, journalists and the general public are able to have real world experiences of the technologies in action.

We believe that the events have increased customer demand for vehicles to be equipped with these safety features and also have also encouraged governments to adopt relevant UN global standards so that the technologies eventually become a regulatory requirement for new vehicles. At our event in Kuala Lumpur in November last year, the Malaysian government announced its intention to legislate for the introduction of electronic stability control (ESC) on all new vehicles by June 2018.

This is an important partnership, not only in support of SDG3, but also SDG11 which is ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’23. Finally it’s also in strong support of SDG17 which covers Partnerships for the Goals which calls for humanity to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development24. It’s by working together and using every skill and resource that we have individually and collectively that we can help to make the SDGs a reality. #LeaveNoOneBehind

1 Rob McInerney, CEO, iRAP, Vision Zero Conference 2017
2 Manifesto #4RoadSafety, Global Network for Road Safety Legislators
3 WHO – Save Lives – A Road Safety Technical Package, May 2017

4 Leah Shahum, Vision Zero Network, Vision Zero Conference 2017
5 Winnie Mitullah, University of Nairobi, Vision Zero Conference 2017
6 http://globalhealth.org/event/the-role-of-safe-sustainable-mobility-in-eradicating-poverty-improving-health/
7 Claudia Adriazola, World Resources Institute, Vision Zero Conference 2017
8 WHO – Save Lives – A Road Safety Technical Package, May 2017
9 Ogendi et al
10 Democratising Road Safety, Global NCAP
11 https://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/work_en
12 Adrian Walsh, Driving for Better Business
13 http://etsc.eu/up-to-40-of-road-deaths-in-europe-are-work-related/
14 Adrian Walsh, Driving for Better Business
15 Adrian Walsh, Driving for Better Business
16 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/19/drivers-could-blocked-using-mobile-phones-wheel-bid-curb-road/
17 https://www.regit.cars/car-news/apple-ios-11-blocks-phone-notifications-while-driving_69253
18 Fitzharris, 2010, ITF (2016), Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System, OECD Publishing, Paris
19 ITF (2016), Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System, OECD Publishing, Paris
20 IIHS, 2016, ITF (2016), Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System, OECD Publishing, Paris
21 @contisafety
22 Teoh, 2011, ITF (2016), Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System, OECD Publishing, Paris
23 Target 11.2 is ‘by 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons’
24 Target 17.16 is ‘enhance the global partnership for sustainable development complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technologies and financial resources to support the achievement of sustainable development goals in all countries, particularly developing countries’. Target 17.17 is ‘encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships’.