Vision and approach of the new global plan

A core feature of the Plan of Action for the Decade (2021-30) is the safe system approach that accommodates human errors and incorporates road and vehicle designs to limit the crash forces. Based on this plan all the nations are called on to develop their own decade action plan.

Keeping in view the rapidly increasing road use, the new global plan comes with four major recommendations: Road infrastructure and multi modal transport and planning, vehicle safety, safe road user, and post-crash response.

Road infrastructure, multi modal transport and planning: 70 per cent of the global population will live in urban settings by 2030. To sustainably manage the increasing pressure on roads, the new global plan stresses that road infrastructure must have ”multimodal mobility”, meaning right accommodation for different kinds of transportations, including shared/public transport, cycling and walking.

Vehicle safety: Right policies must put into execution high-quality harmonised safety standards for all motor vehicles, including safety belts, child-restraint systems, standard motorcycle helmets, electronic stability control, pedestrian protection standards, and intelligent speed assistance systems to help drivers keep to speed limits, and the Accident Emergency Call Systems (AECS).

Safe road user: The road transport system, therefore, has to take change behaviour measures through a combination of legislation, enforcement and education, as speeding, drink-driving, driver fatigue, distracted driving and not wearing of safety belts, child restraints and helmets are among the key behaviour contributors in road casualties.

Post-crash response: Post-crash survival is extremely time-sensitive. Delays of minutes can make the difference between life and death.. Community first-responder training will help greatly expand timely access to simple lifesaving interventions. To encourage action by the first responders, countries should provide legal protection e.g. Good Samaritan laws.

Urgencies for the nations

Funding, speed management, capacity development, proper adoption of gender perspective in transport planning, adopting technologies to the safe system, focus on low and middle income countries, shared responsibility for road safety remain at the core of adoption and implementation of global action plan by UN member nations.

Road safety needs long-term, sustainable investment, but lies universally underfunded. The primary responsibility for funding lies with governments. Local, national and international private and development actors have a lot to contribute, with special focus on innovative solutions.

The global movement to enforce the 30km/h speed limit calls for adoption in many more countries. Supported by the UN, this movement has been instrumental in reducing casualties in quite a few dense urban localities having a mix of motorised vehicles, cycles and pedestrians in different parts of the world.

Road safety behaviour experts have already presented the evidence that women usually act more responsibly than men for a variety of physical, behavioral and social reasons, while male drivers/ riders are associated with 2 to 4 times higher risk. This highlights the need to involve more women as operators and drivers and as decision-makers as well.

Safety technologies are an urgency for countries to adopt. Automotive technologies - advanced driver assistance systems, including electronic stability control, lane-change warnings and automatic emergency braking are already saving lives. Communications technology such as mobile phones can facilitate effective bystander care for the injured.

The focus of the new global action plan lies invariably on the low- and middle-income countries. They account for over 90 per cent road traffic deaths despite having less than 60 per cent of the world’s motor vehicles.

To act with shared responsibility

A safe road transportation system means a great number of measures are put in place, smooth and proper. Safe roads, safe vehicles and safe road behaviours become a reality when all the stakeholders collaborate effectively. While the UN system (World Health Organisation and UN Regional Commissions) provides the global policy guidance, the governments create a policy environment, facilitate all the actors to come forward with their initiatives and work together to bring about big changes. Research organisations and academia have a decisive role to play by bringing about replicable technological and technical solutions and behaviour change evidence.

Youths have a big role in road safety activism. The youths of Bangladesh have already set that example by steering its road safety movement in 2017 that practically shook the nation. Civil society bodies will have to consolidate their collaboration with the government, local communities and private actors to bring lasting change in the sector.

With so many deaths and injuries on roads, no global human development is possible, ever. Nations have to stop letting road safety slip down the national priority list. The global road safety plan of action brings us to the urgency once again: The time is to act now.

* Ahmed Najmul Hussain is Director of Road Safety Programme in BRAC

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