Moses Akaigwe    

The UN General Assembly has adopted a new resolution on global road safety, proclaiming the period 2021–2030 as the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety with the goal to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50 per cent by 2030

Endorsing the Stockholm Declaration, approved at the third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety (Stockholm: February 19 & 20, 2020), the resolution reiterates its invitation to member states and the international community to intensify national, regional and international collaboration to ensure political commitment and responsibility at the highest possible level for improving road safety.

Among its many provisions the new UNGA resolution also requests the World Health Organization and the United Nations regional commissions, in cooperation with other partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration and other stakeholders, to prepare a plan of action of the second decade as a guiding document to support the implementation of its objectives.

It further invites member states to consider establishing mechanisms for the periodic assessment of vehicles in order to ensure that all new and in-use vehicles comply with basic vehicle safety regulations.

The UNGA also decided to convene a high-level meeting of the General Assembly, no later than the end of 2022, on improving global road safety, and to include in the provisional agenda of its 76th session the item entitled “Improving global road safety”.

The Managing Director of MasterDrive {a results-driven, driver training organisation}, Eugene Herbert, says the organisation supports the prioritisation of road safety globally. “Deaths from road crashes is the top eighth cause of death according to the WHO.

“With an achievable strategy and commitment across the globe to reducing crash rates, substantial change can be achieved. While the 50 percent reduction aimed for in the first decade was not achieved, the death rate did not increase either.”

Yet, the strategy for the second decade of action is similar in many ways to the first. “If the initial objectives were not reached, perhaps focusing on more realistic goals should be considered for the second decade.

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“For example, the second decade encourages more walking, cycling and public transport when moving around. This is interesting, considering the second pillar of the first decade focused on vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.”

Additionally, the second decade calls for more funds to be allocated to the initiative. “In a post-COVID-19 world, this may be too optimistic. The world economy has been badly affected by the measures taken to contain the virus and as it remains a major issue in many countries with no real indication of when the economy will recover. Consequently, allocating more budget to road safety might not happen, particularly in developing countries.

“The ability of third world countries to commit to the decade 100 percent is questionable. During the first decade, only one third world country, Brazil, showed significant improvement. The rest of the success was attributed to Russia and other European countries.”

This is not to say that a Second Decade of Action is useless or should not be implemented. “Maintaining the crash death rate at 1.35 million per year is not a failure by any means. Without the Decade of Action the death rate was projected to be two million in 2020. It means that the previous strategy needs to be carefully assessed to determine what was successful and what was not.

“The results of the first decade also suggest the plan needs to be strategised from a third world perspective as these nations account for a large percentage of road deaths. We look forward to the second decade of action and an updated strategy. Let us learn from the first attempt and bring about the change hoped for in the First Decade,” says Herbert.

Officially proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in March 2010, the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, the decade of action was expected to achieve 50 percent reduction in road traffic deaths. It sought to save millions of lives by building road safety management capacity; improving the safety of road infrastructure; further developing the safety of vehicles; enhancing the behaviour of road users.

At an online seminar (webinar) in June, 2020, two university dons, a Professor of Transport and Logistics Planning in the University of Lagos {UNILAG}, Prof. Iyiola Oni; and Dr. Charles Asenime of the School of Transport, Lagos State University, Ojo, discussed the ended Decade of Action on Road Safety from the Nigerian perspective.

While Oni called for more emphasis on accurate data in order to achieve effective road safety management, Dr. Asenime recommended increased road safety education and strengthening of the Federal Road Safety Corps {FRSC} and other existing road safety institutions, in order to reduce accidents and make enforcement easier