- The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) have released a study that indicates cities can create safer streets and reduce traffic deaths, but politicians often do not prioritize such safety reform and instead put the onus for safety on individuals. In addition, different levels of government don't adequately coordinate, and data is lacking for basic information such as demographics, modes of transportation and collision geographic distribution.
- Researchers provided six strategies for enabling road safety improvements, including bundling road safety with more popular or prominent issues, prioritizing an integrated approach and pushing for safety improvements even without perfect data.
- The new report drew conclusions based on case studies in three middle-income cities with traffic safety problems — Nairobi, Kenya; Mumbai, India; and Bogota, Colombia — where pedestrians make up more than half of all road deaths and working-age men make up 65%-80% of traffic deaths.
This report complements WRI's report released earlier this year, suggesting city planners and municipal leaders should take more responsibility for preventing the 1.25 million annual global traffic deaths, and governments should treat traffic deaths like a public health issue. It stated traffic deaths are the 10th leading cause of death globally, and U.S. street safety lags other countries that have similar resources.
Like the earlier report, this new study concluded that road safety is viewed as an individual's problem, not as a governmental planning problem, which holds back cities from improving road safety. Road deaths have become a major international concern over the past 10 years and more partnerships to mitigate the problem have encouraged taking a proactive, integrated, system-based approach known as the "Safe System" approach.
Research indicates the holistic Safe System approach has greater and faster success at reducing road deaths than other approaches. It focuses on actions and improvements at all levels of the system, including land use planning, public transportation, regulation, enforcement and education. Although this approach first emerged about 20 years ago in the Netherlands and Sweden, it's only now gaining widespread attention and acceptance as a leading model for change, in the form of Vision Zero programs.
The new report also focuses on how political priorities can affect a city's road safety. Reducing traffic deaths through a systemic approach is not always the most visible or popular measure and therefore often gets ignored to make room for other measures, such as building new roads. But the report claims governments don't have to compromise safety for other initiatives.
The report suggests cities can make greater progress by bundling policy changes so the systemic approach to road safety is included with other, more popular measures. It also recommends pooling resources by collaborating with other municipalities and stakeholders, in addition to fostering better collaboration with other levels of government.