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Different Country, Same Challenge: Safety Unites Global Transportation Community as it Pursues Zero Traffic Fatalities

By: 
Jacob Barron, IBTTA

Every country’s transportation system is as distinct as the country itself, but not when it comes to safety. In the pursuit of Vision Zero—an international term referring to the goal of bringing traffic fatalities down to zero—each country’s challenges, and each country’s approach to solving them, are often more similar than they are different.

These similarities were on full display at a recent webinar hosted by IBTTA’s Women in Tolling Council and ASECAP.  Moderated by former IBTTA President and AISCAT Director of International Affairs Emanuela Stocchi,  “International Road Safety: Extraordinary Women Taking Extraordinary Action toward Vision Zero” featured women from transportation systems around the world talking about how they’ve taken action to end traffic-related injuries and fatalities. 

“Road accidents are the leading cause of death for young people,” said ASECAP Secretary General Malika Seddi in her opening remarks. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years. “We definitely have to act in order to reduce and suppress this fatality and accident rate,” she added.

This is something that’s remained a problem even with the pandemic’s impact on road traffic. European Commission Head of Road Safety Claire Depré noted that while traffic fatalities were down in the European Union in 2020 by 17%, the decrease did not keep pace with the dramatic fall in traffic due to the pandemic. In other words, accidents were down, but not down enough. “To all of us, this should mean that we should keep addressing road safety in a dynamic manner,” she said. “What you have gained one year does not necessarily automatically follow in the next year.”

Taking action to reduce traffic fatalities does have an impact on all road users, including those most commonly affected by traffic accidents. “In countries where there are generally higher levels of road safety because of work on infrastructure, vehicle and road users, young road users are safer,” said Ellen Townsend, policy director at the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC). “This should motivate us all to work on improving road safety.”

“Education is very important,” said Vassiliki Danelli-Mylona, president of the Road Safety Institute in Greece. Danelli-Mylona noted Greece’s efforts to educate road users starts well before they can legally drive a vehicle. “We have developed programs starting with kindergarten all the way to the elderly. At schools, one quarter of all students have attended our programs and thousands of teachers and employees. Every day more than 243 citizens per day are trained.”

“One of the things I think all of us can agree on is that communication is key,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and incoming IBTTA President Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “The ability to get messages out to our drivers to provide quick information to them—that they don’t have to pick up their phone to look at—is important in making sure that they can avoid troublesome situations,” she said, continuing that “we all know that in accident situations secondary crashes are inevitable, so the more we can do to alert our drivers of crashes that may be ahead, and reroute them, the better off we are.”

Another thing panelists agreed on was that addressing road safety effectively requires collaboration, including with the private sector, as noted by panelist Susanna Zammataro, director general of the International Road Federation (IRF). “The benefit of a coalition is being able to put all the efforts together and learn from each other,” she said. “We really need to build on this spillover mechanism that happens when we bring people together.”

Gutierrez-Scaccetti summarized the webinar neatly during her portion of the program. “It’s interesting that, globally, we focus on so many of the same topics,” she said. “I am comforted by the fact that we face the same challenges and together our approaches are so similar.”

“We cannot rely on only one or the other to create a safe roadway. It really is all of our responsibilities to create that safe roadway,” she added.

Replay the entire webinar for free here.
 

Newsletter publish date: 
Monday, November 29, 2021 - 13:00

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