The role of business in the global road safety agenda

Published: 6 Mar 2020
Author: Irene Martinetti
Type: Insight

1.35 million people die on the roads every year. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for young people from 5 to 29 years old. What’s worse,  over 500 million road deaths and injuries are projected for the next decade. This is alarming, considering safer roads and mobility are a crucial enabler to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially on gender, equity, access to opportunities and the realization of human rights worldwide

Over 3,000 people die on the roads every day, 90% of them in low and middle-income countries. Road deaths and injuries take a heavy toll on families, health care systems and national Gross Domestic Products (GDPs). While only a handful of countries are on track to achieve a significant reduction in road deaths, progress made in the past decade shows that with strong political leadership, a clear roadmap and engagement of all stakeholders, this goal is completely within our reach.

With this in mind, last month, WBCSD joined 1,700 road-safety practitioners from governments, academia, NGOs and industry at the Global Ministerial Road Safety Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, to take stock of progress and galvanize the international community around a new decade of action to achieve SDG 3.6: 50% reduction in road deaths and injuries by 2030.

The business community can do a lot to help reducing road deaths and injuries worldwide. Many companies are determined to address the challenge by keeping safety a top priority and they have been extremely successful in reducing the number of road deaths.

Road accidents happen in complex mobility ecosystems, and without addressing road safety as a systemic issue, we will not achieve the desired reduction in deaths and injuries. The contribution of business to system change needs to involve more than just financing. As an example, at the Conference in Stockholm, Michelin’s CEO Florent Menegaux urged governments and civil society to draw extensively on business expertise and outreach.

Given the rapid growth of global urbanization, urban mobility systems are key arenas for tackling road safety. WBCSD is already at the forefront of facilitating dialogue between cities and business. Through our project Transforming Urban Mobility, we bring public and private mobility stakeholders together to accelerate the transition to sustainable urban mobility systems.

WBCSD and our members, together with the city of Lisbon have shown that business has an active role to play in solving mobility challenges in cities. By signing Corporate Mobility Pacts with cities, companies can include safety-oriented initiatives that aim to encourage modal shifts and work in partnership with relevant stakeholders to support road traffic education and post-crash care. 

With SiMPlify, we’re working with cities to adopt sustainable urban mobility plans that increase public transit ridership, build a mobility ecosystem that encourages safe active mobility and shift people away from private vehicles. All these measures have proven effective in reducing road traffic accidents.

Quality and comparable data is crucial for infrastructure monitoring and post-crash emergency response. Data becomes ever more vital as advanced driver assistance systems and ultimately autonomous vehicles will rely on optimal vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communication to keep road users safe.  Today, mobility relevant data is increasingly owned by businesses leading the mobility transition. As part of our Transforming Urban Mobility work, we are developing a framework for data-sharing that will address barriers stemming from competition, privacy, cybersecurity and ethics while at the same time allow all involved stakeholders to capture value.

Road crashes and injuries can to a large extent be averted through vehicle safety features. But many cars on our roads still fail to meet even the most basic safety standards. By limiting the human error, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), have the potential to reduce road accidents by 30%. Life-saving technologies should not be a premium feature. Here, business can contribute by upgrading their corporate fleets and put safer vehicles on the world’s roads.

Business can also show bold leadership by including road-safety disclosures as part of their sustainability performance, thereby pushing investors to include safer mobility performance in their decision-making. Some forward-thinking businesses are leading the charge: in Stockholm, Volvo’s CEO Martin Lundstedt committed to full road-safety disclosure in their sustainability reports by 2025.

Safety is a key element of our vision for sustainable mobility worldwide, and we are working with our members to ensure that equal access to safety is at the core of our approach. Millions of lives can be saved in the next 10 years. Let’s lead, transform and succeed.

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