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Leaders gather in Moscow to step up road safety

November 25, 2009

Leaders gather in Moscow to step up road safety

We’ve made huge investments in America’s roads to make sure they’re safe and to develop different systems that make them even safer.

The first-ever Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, which I attended in Moscow last week, hopes to see similar investments begin in earnest around the world.

The conference was organized in part by the World Health Organization so that world leaders will see the scale of road accidents–1.3 million lives lost annually, predicted to rise to 2 million by 2020–and step up efforts to combat this problem just as they would any killer disease that ravaged their countries.

The message I brought to the summit is that the rest of the world needs to start talking about the dangers of distracted driving. Despite the dramatic rise of cell phones and texting around the globe, there just hasn’t been much discussion about this hazard.

Road safety advocates want the United Nations to label the next 10 years a decade of action on road safety with a commitment to cut the forecast level of fatalities by 50%. That would save a potential 5 million lives.

Look, we know from experience that making roads safe won’t break the bank. But continued inattention to this problem just might. The cost to many countries of these road losses is equivalent to nearly 4% of GDP.

As John Dawson, chair of the International Road Assessment Program, noted:

“Because of a reduction in health care costs associated with safer roads, road safety is an investment that can repay five to ten times over.”

Road safety, it just makes sense–in America and around the world.

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