Before leaving D.C. for the Congressional August recess, members of both the House and Senate sent letters to the World Bank urging a stronger bank lending policy focused on improving global road safety. The World Bank plays a preeminent role in financing road construction in developing countries and therefore is in a unique position to have tremendous influence and guide improvements in road safety. Because the World Bank funds infrastructure projects with assistance from the United States, members of Congress were compelled to send a message to the World Bank requesting that the bank establish a minimum safety design and construction standard for the road projects it funds.
Each year, more than 1.3 million people are killed in road crashes and 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. A large percentage of the victims are children. The rate of road crashes has been rising quickly and the World Health Organization expects road traffic injuries to overtake HIV/AIDS as a leading cause of death by the year 2030. Raising global road safety standards would save thousands of lives, reduce traffic-related accidents, and enhance economic growth in developing countries.
The standard that the members of Congress were highlighting is one where roads are rated from one to five stars in terms of road safety for each category of road users, including vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and bicyclists. ASCE is a member of the 3-Star Coalition, a broad group of transportation and public health stakeholders that advocates for roads in developing countries to be built to a minimum three-star safety standard for all road users. Moving to a three-star minimum safety standard will save lives, avert crippling injuries, and provide substantial economic returns. The 3-Star coalition views safer road construction as part of a comprehensive traffic safety approach that also includes improved law enforcement, increased public education, and strong national leadership on road safety.
These members of Congress – Reps. Emmer (R-MN) and Serrano (D-NY), and Sens. Purdue (R-GA) and Markey (D-MA) – along with 39 House colleagues and six Senate colleagues, should be commended for their commitment to global road safety. Let’s hope that upon receiving the message that the World Bank feels compelled to act soon to implement more accountable safety standards for the projects that it helps fund. You can help urge greater attention on global road safety by using the social media hashtag, #SaveKidsLives.