Global Road Safety
Throughout the world, roads are shared by cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, pedestrians, animals, taxis, and other travelers. Travel made possible by motor vehicles supports economic and social development in many countries. Yet each year, these vehicles are involved in crashes that are responsible for 1.35 million deaths and up to 50 million injuries.1 Road traffic crashes are also the world’s leading cause of death for children and young adults 5–29 years of age.1 In addition, it estimated that fatal and nonfatal crash injuries will cost the world economy approximately $1.8 trillion dollars (in 2010 USD) from 2015–2030.2 That’s equivalent to a yearly tax of 0.12% on global GDP (gross domestic product).2
Whether you’re on the road at home or abroad, know the risks and take steps to protect your health and safety.
The 6th United Nations Global Road Safety Weekexternal icon is May 17–23, 2021. It will serve to kick off the new Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021–2030)external icon and the associated Global Plan of Action. This year’s Global Road Safety Week is dedicated to promoting low speed limits for streets where people and traffic mix.
Steps for Road Safety At Home and Abroad3
- Always use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short and no matter if you are seated in the front or the back of a vehicle.
- Make sure children are always properly buckled in the back seat in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt that is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
- Always wear a helmet when driving or riding on motorcycles, motorbikes, or bicycles.
- Do not drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and avoid riding with a driver who is impaired.
- Obey speed limits.
- Drive without distractions. For example, don’t use a cell phone or text while driving.
- Be alert when crossing streets, especially in countries where motorists drive on the left side of the road.
- Ride only in marked/official taxis or ride share vehicles. Try to ride in taxis or ride share vehicles that have seat belts available in all seating positions.
- Avoid riding in overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or minivans.
- Check the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) website for information about driving hazards and road safety risks by country.
- For more information about road safety, overall safety, and security in every country of the world, visit the country information page on the U.S. Department of State website.
Current Global Road Safety Efforts
The 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safetyexternal icon, held in Sweden in February 2020, produced the Stockholm Declarationexternal icon. This statement acknowledges that substantial progress was made to improve road safety during the first Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) pdf icon[PDF – 6 pages]external icon. It mentions some key achievements, such as enhanced global coordination on road safety, greater engagement with non-governmental entities, production and dissemination of road traffic injury prevention resources, and increased global commitment to focusing on and providing resources for road safety.
However, the statement also recognizes that all countries still face formidable road safety challenges. It describes lessons learned from the first Decade of Action, including the need to promote an integrated approach to road safety, the importance of identifying and implementing long-term and sustainable road safety solutions, and the need for continued emphasis on collaboration across sectors. It also reaffirms commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – especially road safety-related targets 3.6external icon and 11.2external icon. In addition, it emphasizes the protection of vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists), the importance of adopting and enforcing evidence-based policies to reduce transportation risk behaviors, the critical role of advanced vehicle safety technologies, the importance of shifting to cleaner and healthier modes of transportation, and our shared responsibility to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.
Global Road Safety and CDC
CDC recognizes the new United Nations (UN) Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021–2030)external icon and the priorities set forth. This second Decade of Action was established by the UN General Assembly resolution 74/299external icon “Improving global road safety,” and adopted in August 2020. The new Decade of Action re-establishes the ambitious goal of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries across the world by 50% from 2021–2030.
World Health Assembly Resolution 69.7 pdf icon[PDF – 3 pages]external icon (adopted May 2016) called for WHO Member States to develop a set of 12 voluntary global road safety performance targets pdf icon[PDF – 1 page]external icon to accelerate the reduction of road traffic injuries and the improvement of road safety. In November 2017, the targets were finalized and adoptedexternal icon. They can help countries assess their progress towards accomplishing activities within the following five pillars outlined in the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020)external icon:
- Building road safety management capacity
- Improving the safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks
- Further developing vehicle safety
- Enhancing safe behavior of road users
- Improving post-crash response and care
A new Global Plan of Action aligning with the Stockholm Declarationexternal icon and UN General Assembly resolution 74/299 [PDF – 9 pages]external icon “Improving global road safety” will be released during the 6th UN Global Road Safety Weekexternal icon (May 17–23, 2021). It will provide actionable steps to work towards a 50% reduction of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030. The continued use of these 12 voluntary targets to monitor and report on road safety progress is encouraged.
CDC has also provided technical and funding support for WHO reports, manuals, documents, and technical packages. For example, Save LIVES – a Road Safety Technical Packageexternal icon (2017) is an evidence-based inventory of priority interventions that can help road safety professionals, governments, and other decision-makers to reduce road traffic injuries and achieve the road safety-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets (3.6external icon and 11.2external icon). It focuses on Speed management, Leadership, Infrastructure design and improvement, Vehicle safety standards, Enforcement of traffic laws, and post-crash Survival.
Vision Zero, the Safe System Approach, and Road to Zero
In 1997, a new idea from Sweden opened the door to a new way of thinking: Vision Zeroexternal icon. This idea that no one should die or suffer serious injury in traffic crashes has gained considerable traction across the world and has evolved into a highly successful road safety strategy. The strategy embraces the Safe System approachexternal icon to road safety, which acknowledges that humans make mistakes. Therefore, the road system should be built in a way that helps to reduce human error and protects humans from death and severe injury when they make mistakes.4 A few examples include creating separate spaces for cars and pedestrians, reducing speeds, engineering roads to facilitate safe driving, and safer vehicles.
In the United States, many cities, counties, and communitiesexternal icon have accepted the challenge. Similar to this vision, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD)external icon focuses on six areas of emphasis pdf icon[PDF – 2 pages]external icon: 1) Safer drivers and passengers; 2) Safer vulnerable users; 3) Safer vehicles; 4) Safer infrastructure; 5) Enhanced Emergency Medical Services; and 6) Improved safety management. A combination of strategies and the collaboration of groups from many different sectors such as public health organizations, law enforcement agencies, and emergency medical services are necessary to achieve the TZD vision.
In 2016, the Road to Zero (RTZ) Coalitionexternal icon was launched to support and enhance Vision Zero efforts in the United States. The coalition’s primary goal is to end road traffic fatalities in the United States by 2050. CDC actively participates in the coalition and serves on the Steering Group.
The RTZ Coalition outlines three primary focus areasexternal icon that are needed to achieve zero deaths:
- Doubling down on what works
- Accelerating advanced technology
- Prioritizing safety
Each day, almost 3,700 people are killed globally in road traffic crashes involving cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, or pedestrians. More than half of those people killed in crashes are pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists.
Each year, 1.35 million people die on the world’s roads. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among children and young adults aged 5–29 years.
The Traffic Conflict Technique (TCT) Toolkit is a comprehensive guide that describes five different methods to evaluate the impact of a road safety intervention by collecting and analyzing traffic conflict data. A traffic conflict occurs when two or more road users are at risk of colliding if their movements do not change. The TCT Toolkit focuses on pedestrian-vehicle traffic conflicts in and around school zones in low- and middle-income countries. Download the TCT Toolkit pdf icon[PDF – 76 pages]external icon to learn more about how to improve road safety in school zones.
- World Health Organization (WHO). Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. WHO; 2018. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565684external icon. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Chen S, Kuhn M, Prettner K, Bloom DE. The global macroeconomic burden of road injuries: estimates and projections for 166 countriesexternal icon. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2019 Sep 1;3(9):e390–398.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC Health Information for International Travel (Yellow Book 2020). Chapter 8 – Travel by Air, Land & Sea – Road & Traffic Safety. 2020 Edition. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-by-air-land-sea/road-and-traffic-safety. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Abel S, Lindley JA, Paniati JF. The Road to Zero: Taking a Safe System Approachexternal icon. ITE Journal. 2020;90(5):26–31. Published May 2020.