UN Global Road Safety Week is coming up, May 8-14. It is an excellent opportunity to highlight the link between road safety and the UN agenda. Although it might not seem obvious at first, lowering speeds can help make progress towards a number of UN goals.
Road safety is most prominent in SDG 3.6, to half the number of deaths and injuries on the roads by 2020. Currently, 1.25 million people die on our roads, 20-50 million more suffer injuries, and speed is an aggravating factor in all crashes. The inclusion of road safety in the SDGs highlights its connection to not only health, but also to other SDGs such as 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 17.
Although anyone, anywhere can fall victim to injury or death on roads, 90% of crashes occur in low- and middle-income countries, leaving the poorest to bear the greatest burden. When the head of a household is injured or killed, a family can plummet into poverty for generations to come. On a larger scale, this is part of the reason why road crashes cost countries 3-5% of their GDP.
Our youth are affected most, with road traffic injuries as the leading killer of 15 to 29-year-olds. Daily, 3000 children are killed or injured on roads, preventing them from going to school. 300 million children are exposed to an invisible killer on roads, air pollution. The highly toxic air they breathe will forever impact their health.
The FIA Foundation’s Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility recognizes that it doesn’t have to be this way. Together with UNICEF, UNEP, Overseas Development Institute, Save the Children, and World Resources Institute, we aim for a safe and healthy route to school for every child by 2030. We promote a known cure for child road traffic injuries and deaths. Just as there is a vaccine for many of the other diseases covered in the health SDG, we have a vaccine for road traffic injuries, as well – low speeds.
Low speeds save lives, and reduce air pollution. A child hit by a car at 20 mph (30 km/h) can survive. Hit at 50mph (80km/h), the child will die. Reducing speed by design on roads where kids live, walk, or cycle to school, is urgent. It will benefit everyone. If you consider your hometown, and draw circles of about 2 miles around each school, you’ll notice that reducing speeds around schools has an enormous impact on the larger community. Streets become not only safer, but also more enjoyable. Community members can go outside and exercise, walk to work or school, shop in local stores, and breathe the clean air they deserve. Low speeds make communities more sustainable.
Lowering speed benefits everyone, and plays a wider role in achieving the UN agenda. If we want to affect generations to come, we must start by protecting our children.
Every child deserves the chance to live. Every journey they make must be safe. Accelerate action now to #SlowDown.