Every year, a total of 1.3 million people die on the road and 50 million are severely injured in traffic accidents, making these events the leading cause of death worldwide for children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 29. Men take two to four times as many driving risks as women, while women mainly lose their lives as pedestrians and vehicle passengers. Low- and middle-income regions currently account for 90% of all traffic fatalities.

Unless more decisive action is taken, the forecasts are disheartening. The United Nations estimates that over the next 10 years, traffic victims could reach the “unacceptable” level of 13 million dead and 500 million injured, which will inarguably impede sustainable development, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

This situation was highlighted today by Jesus Monclús, Director of Accident Prevention and Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE, during the presentation of the Assessment Report on the First Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, together with The George Institute for Global Health and the Milken Institute School of Public Health (George Washington University). These institutions have jointly prepared a document for the World Health Organization that analyzes the indicators with the strongest influence on the continued reduction in traffic accidents in the past 10 years.

Fundación MAPFRE’s Director of Accident Prevention and Road Safety referred to this data, which appears in the second Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, a document presented today by the United Nations that establishes targets and recommendations to reduce the number of road deaths and injuries by 50% in the next 10 years.

The plan, drawn up in collaboration with the World Health Organization, includes experts’ best recommendations to modernize roads and highways, improve vehicle safety, prevent mistakes and distractions at the wheel, and promote multimodality and safe, healthy, and sustainable means of transport, among other actions. It also analyzes the necessary measures for each action to be implemented.

In his speech, Jesus Monclús stressed that the second decade for road safety will be “more action-oriented” (the new global plan details 65 specific measures), with more private sector involvement. It will pursue a “stronger political commitment among countries” (the WHO will have more resources for this) and place more emphasis on “controlling and lowering speed limits.” He also pointed out that the new document calls more attention to the need to boost funding and improve in-country training for professionals, which is critical for them to be able to efficiently implement specific measures. The strategy also involves young people as key players and explicitly recognizes mobility as a “fundamental human right and a common good for society.”

In addition, the new plan highlights its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, indicating that “safe mobility is a prerequisite for the achievement of the rest of the goals, such as access to education and decent work, the fight against poverty, and ensuring equality, among others.”

Lessons from the past decade

According to the Assessment Report on the First Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, a growing number of institutions and countries are agreeing to make road safety a matter of public health, to “urgently” implement better traffic injury registration and notification systems, and to promote collaboration between countries to implement best practices.

The report also presents interesting findings, such as the fact that road accidents are particularly rising in low-income regions, such as Africa, where the average road death rate is 28.2 victims per 100,000 inhabitants. It also shows that only 28 countries in the world, that is, 7% of the entire global population, currently have strong enough traffic safety legislation to address the main road risks, such as drinking and driving, speeding, and the failure to use motorcycle helmets and child restraint systems, among others.

Three-star roads

Road conditions and new forms of mobility will play a key role in reducing accidents. In this regard, the report states that in recent years, a growing number of countries have adopted a road safety strategy and an institutional body to ensure compliance. Also, more countries are implementing a system to record the number of road collisions and accidents each year and promoting measures to encourage the use of public transport and other healthy, safe, and sustainable means of mobility, such as biking and walking, as alternatives to private vehicles.

One of the UN’s challenges for 2030, it explains, is for all new roads to meet the technical road-safety requirements for all types of users or to obtain at least a three-star rating. At the end of 2018, it indicates, 1.3 million kilometers of roads were identified as having the highest risk of danger, and as a result, nearly 50 countries now have safer roads.

Vehicles with more safety systems

Between 2011 and 2020, there was also an increase in the number of countries that require seatbelts, ISOFIX anchors, and active and passive safety systems, such as stability control and pedestrian detection. But it also highlights the fact that in 2018, only 40 countries implemented 7 or 8 of the United Nations’ recommendations to improve vehicle safety regulations and that a total of 124 countries adopted just one measure, or zero measures in this regard.

Therefore, the new Global Plan 2021-2030, unveiled today by the WHO, urges countries to adhere to the UN international conventions on vehicle safety, among others. Furthermore, it calls upon manufacturers to upgrade their standard safety equipment and to stop selling vehicles with fewer safety systems in low- and middle-income countries that are not sold in regions with higher per capita income.

More responsible drivers

The report also refers to the fact that, in the last 10 years, little progress has been made on legislation related to speeding, although some countries have taken some steps to improve regulations on drinking and driving. It further emphasizes the importance of the assistance provided after an accident, calling attention to the fact that the number of countries with access to a universal emergency phone number is the same as it was 10 years ago, a “worrisome” situation in view of the number of lives that could be saved.

In addition, the new Global Plan 2021-2030 highlights the need to promote road safety education, a priority area for Fundación MAPFRE, including first-aid training for the general public and for professional drivers in particular. The document also refers to the legitimate aspiration of victims’ associations to work on comprehensive post-accident care with measures including single emergency numbers; medical, social, and occupational rehabilitation; and greater restorative justice.

You can download it at:

Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030

Assessment Report on the First Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020