road safety in developing countries
When people help developing countries — they usually support policies that provide food, medicine and machines that will prevent malnourishment. Perhaps all to ease the transition into a stable society. All those efforts certainly benefit people, as 50 million fewer children around the world are malnourished compared to 20 years ago. Yet, the sometimes overlooked policy area of improving road safety in developing countries is also very important.

Lesser Income Countries Are Most Affected

Even if we save the world from malnourishment — it would not help the 1.35 million that fall victim to road accidents, every year. Also, 93% of road fatalities occur in middle or low-income countries, which impedes growth and hurts regions already suffering from other effects of poverty. International agencies around the world are proposing solutions to stop preventable deaths due to traffic accidents. Here are three agencies working to improve road safety in developing countries and thus — save lives with tried and true methods.

3 Agencies Improving Road Safety in Developing Countries

  1. WHO: The World Health Organization within the United Nations is primarily responsible for informing and organizing information about health-related issues, such as road safety in developing countries. In 2017, they released a guidebook for governments called Save LIVES, which outlines ambitious goals, such as reducing accident fatality by 50% by 2020. While the data is not yet available for 2020 — it may have happened, if only because of the coronavirus pandemic. Save LIVES suggests mitigation strategies as well, like lowering and enforcing speed limits. For instance, lowering the speed limit by just 1% holds the potential to reduce fatal crashes by 4%.
  2. Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS): This philanthropic organization, funded by the Bloomberg financial company, uses evidence-based approaches to increase road safety in developing countries. They started in some of the hardest-hit countries in their pilot program. E.g., Cambodia, Mexico and Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, BIGRS focused on reducing drunk driving through a combination of advertisements and increased enforcement as well as improving the existing transit system. As both efforts reduced deaths, Bloomberg has since expanded its efforts to other countries and is currently trying other approaches. For instance, working with manufacturers directly to make airbags and seatbelts standard, across the world.
  3. Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety: While this group does not directly build better roads or encourage legislation — it does organize and compile data from other NGOs. On the website are many articles about the impacts of those nonprofits. For example, ASIRT Kenya encouraged the creation of Nairobi Metropolitan Services in the neighboring country, to make journeys to school easier. Les Ambassadeurs de la Sécurité Routière (ASR) in Tunisia created a summer of road safety to encourage drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. Through a media campaign, they hoped to reduce road deaths by approximately 40%.

Road Safety and Poverty?

These organizations use many of the same solutions — encouraging people to wear seatbelts, increasing enforcement and decreasing speed limits. All of these efforts are for the same end goals of road safety in developing countries. Reducing traffic deaths has many benefits that people may not initially realize and can directly reduce poverty. The GDP growth of many developing countries could happen faster if they did not have the burden of losing citizens to the roads. An estimate by the WHO states that developing countries miss out on 7–22% of their potential GDP increase, because of such deaths. Countries with higher productivity (measured by GDP) tend to have less poverty because they can participate more in international trade. These countries also tend to produce more resources like food and medicine.

With safe roads both coming from and encouraging a greater GDP, impoverished people can continue their ascent out of poverty as road safety in developing countries and GDP simultaneously improve.

 Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr