May 12, 2011  |  Bloomberg Philanthropies

Dr. Kelly Henning today hailed the growing international focus on road safety as a major issue of public health concern. This week, the United Nations launches its Decade of Action for Road Safety, the most significant global pledge to improve road safety to-date. In addition, more than 100 countries around the world are expressing their commitment to the Decade of Action, launching new efforts to save more lives on the world’s roads.

These signs of increased activity come as Bloomberg Philanthropies completes the first year and a half of its $125 million, five-year road safety program, focused on ten low- and middle-income countries that account for nearly half of all road deaths globally.

“When we announced the global road safety program in late 2009, we hoped to serve as a catalyst for government, non-governmental, and grassroots action to significantly reduce traffic crash deaths and injuries,” said Dr. Henning, who oversees public health programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Today, there’s a strong and growing network of NGOs, officials, and others working around the world to implement proven interventions. We are ready to build on our progress-to-date and make the most of the UN’s call for action.”

There have been a number of gains on the road safety front since the Bloomberg global road safety program was launched in late 2009. These include:

  • New penalties for drinking and driving in Guadalajara.
  • Enforcement of seat-belt laws in Russia increased nearly ten fold from an average of 85 citations per week to 855 per week following a funded ad campaign.
  • Increased helmet use and decreased drunk driving in Cambodia. From October 2010 to February 2011 there was an 18% reduction in riders cited for not wearing a helmet and a 60% reduction in drunk driving in Phnom Penh, Kandal, and Kampong Speu provinces.
  • Road safety audits completed on more than 280 miles of bus rapid transit routes serving more than four million people in Brazil, India, Mexico, and Turkey. Recommended improvements are expected to result in over 2,500 fewer serious injuries each year.
  • Over 1,800 public safety workers trained on effective enforcement of seat-belt, speed, and drunk driving laws in eight countries and nearly 200 breathalyzers distributed.
  • 100 officials trained on effective social marketing campaigns.

The need for action is clear. Each year, 1.3 million people – 3,300 every day – are killed by road traffic crashes around the world and up to another 50 million suffer severe, often permanently debilitating, injuries. Road traffic injuries are projected to be the fifth leading cause of death globally by 2030. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ global road safety program invests in six proven interventions:

  1. Motorcycle helmets: Helmet use decreases the risk of injuries by 69% and deaths by 42%.
  2. Seat-belts: Seat-belt use reduces serious and fatal injuries by 40-65%.
  3. Drunk driving prevention: lowering the legal blood alcohol limit can cut alcohol-related crashes in half; random breath testing reduces alcohol-related crashes by 20%.
  4. Anti-speeding: Research on effective speed management indicates that speed limits on urban roads should not exceed 30 mph. If a pedestrian is hit by a car at 40 mph, there is a 70% chance they will die; at 30 mph, there is an 80% chance they will live.
  5. Infrastructure: An estimated 1.7 million deaths and serious injuries can be avoided every year worldwide if economically viable engineering improvements are applied to the worst 10% of the roads in each country.
  6. Sustainable urban transport: Improved urban transport leads to better air quality and significantly reduced carbon emissions. By reducing the number of vehicles on the road and increasing sustainable urban transport options, deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes can be averted.

Bloomberg Philanthropies also invests in world-class monitoring and evaluation of traffic related deaths, injuries, and policy effectiveness. The first-ever World Health Organization Global Status Report on Road Safety, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, was released in 2009 and included data from 178 countries representing 98% of the world’s population. The status report serves as an important baseline for global progress. Data collection for the 2012 report is underway.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ global road safety program is focused in Brazil, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. Six partner organizations implement and coordinate activities with in-country governmental and non-governmental organizations. The partners are the World Health Organization, EMBARQ (World Resources Institute), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, Global Road Safety Partnership, and the Association for Safe International Road Travel.


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