Global Progress towards Comprehensive Legislation for Road Safety

On March 14th, 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the second Global Status Report on Road Safety* (GSRRS-2013). Overall, the GSRRS-2013 concludes that “the number of road traffic deaths each year has not increased (from 2007 to 2011) – but remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million per year.” The GSRRS-2013 also noted the global progress made towards “comprehensive legislation.”

 Per the GSRRS-2013, legislation for road safety can be defined as “comprehensive” if the existing national and sub-national road safety laws include the following five key laws: 1) a national speed limit law with urban speeds of ≤ 50 km/h (or less where appropriate); 2) a national drink-driving law based on blood alcohol concentration (the WHO recommends a BAC limit for the general population of ≤0.05g/dl); 3) a national motorcycle helmet law for all riders on all roads and engine types that incorporates an international or national helmet standard; 4) a national seat-belt law that applies to all private car occupants (front and rear seats); and 5) a national child restraint law. The GSRRS-2013 revealed that only 28 countries had all five key laws. These countries represent only 7% of the world’s population. Furthermore, only a few countries among the 28 with all five key laws stated that they had good levels of enforcement (based on subjective assessments by the national road safety experts). These findings call for focused efforts towards further developing road safety legislation globally.

The key question now is how to facilitate the advancement of “comprehensive legislation” for road safety and ensuring “good” enforcement levels in the coming years among member countries. One way is to initiate demonstration projects at selected sites in countries lacking comprehensive legislation. These projects would be useful in demonstrating the value of implementing comprehensive road safety legislation. The demonstration projects of the Road Safety 10 (RS-10) project, a multi-country program supported by the Bloomberg philanthropies, are in line with the GSRRS-2013.

An additional tool, that I believe has been underutilized until now, is the sixth recommendation of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (2004) “to support the development of national capacity and international cooperation.” According to the recommendation, member nations should coordinate their road safety efforts through a lead road safety agency, and international agencies should come forward in providing resources for such actions.

In my opinion, building the capacity of lead agencies in the countries lacking comprehensive legislation may be an important avenue to advance road safety laws globally. The countries with experience in developing comprehensive legislation should come forward and offer assistance to others in strengthening their road safety legislation capacity. I welcome suggestions from others on solutions to this issue.

The GSRRS-2013 is available at:

http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/en/index.html

A report on Road Safety 10 project is available at:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17441692.2013.769613?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed

* For those who are not familiar with the GSRRS, this initiative began in August 2007 when the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a standardized methodology to assess the core set of road safety indicators in the WHO member states. The initiative aimed to help the member states in identifying priorities for road safety interventions. In each country, up to eight road safety experts filled a self-administered questionnaire. In a following consensus meeting, expert responses were finalized into one national dataset. The first report, which was published in 2009, included road safety indicators of 2007-08. The GSRRS 2009 provided for the first time an overall view of the road safety problem at a global level. It served as a key advocacy tool for launching the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, with the aim to save 5 million lives in ten years. The second global road safety survey used the same methodology with some additional questions. The GSRRS 2013 is, therefore, unique as it presents a comprehensive view of progress made in the road safety globally from 2007 to 2011.

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