Every year, approximately 1.3 million people worldwide die in road traffic accidents and as many as 50 million people are injured. To address this urgent global challenge, Jean Todt, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, was in Brussels this week for the launch of a global campaign called “Make a Safety Statement“, coinciding with European Mobility Week, and produced in collaboration with JCDecaux and with the support of Saatchi & Saatchi.
Why is road safety a critical concern?
Road traffic incidents rank as the leading cause of death among people aged 5 to 29 globally, with developing nations accounting for 93% of victims. The most vulnerable road users—pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists—bear a disproportionate burden. The economic cost of road traffic injuries amounts to 3% of the gross domestic product of most countries, not to mention the significant financial losses incurred by affected individuals and their families.
The silent pandemic
At this week’s campaign launch, Mr. Todt emphasized that: “Road safety is not high enough on the political agenda in most countries. It’s what I call the silent pandemic. Our objective with this campaign is to revert this trend and mobilize the political will that is needed to increase actions and financing to save millions of lives, in line with the objectives of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and SDG 3.6 to halve the number of road victims.”
“Make a Safety Statement” is a call for a shift in road user behaviour. The campaign seeks to raise awareness about road safety by building a culture of safety, a world where streets are safe, green and liveable. Celebrities including Oscar-winning actress and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh, as well as Naomi Campbell, Novak Djokovic, Patrick Dempsey, Didier Drogba, Michael Fassbender, and Kylie Minogue, will encourage fans, followers and the general public to adopt straightforward yet effective rules for road safety, such as wearing seat belts, driving at safe speeds, using helmets, and refraining from texting while driving.
The situation in Europe
In 2022, within the European Union, approximately 20,600 lives were lost in road crashes, a 3% increase compared to 2021. The safest roads are in Sweden (21 deaths per one million inhabitants) and Denmark (26/million). The number of fatalities in EU Member States fell by 30.7 % between 2011 and 2021. Across the EU, 52% of road traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads, versus 39% in urban areas and 9% on motorways. Men accounted for three out of four road deaths (78%).
European Mobility Week
The campaign launch coincided with European Mobility Week (16-22 September). European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, took part in the campaign launch’s press conference at the European Commission. European Mobility Week is the European Commission’s flagship campaign on sustainable urban mobility. Under the theme “Save energy”, it encourages behavioral change in favor of active mobility, public transport and other clean transport solutions. The Commissioner stressed that tackling road safety is a shared responsibility. “It requires national and local actors, as well as civil society and industry to come together to make our roads, vehicles and drivers safer. That is the only way we will achieve our goal of 50% fewer deaths in the EU by 2030.”
The campaign launch featured a bicycle ride organized in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the Office of the Special Envoy for Road Safety, and the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region. The ride aimed to raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding vulnerable road users, highlighting the unique challenges urban areas face due to high population densities and complex transportation systems.
This event was followed by an interactive panel discussion at TheMerode on changing road user behaviour, with one of the campaign’s stars, actress and ambassador of the UN campaign for road safety Ms. Julie Gayet; government representatives: Mr. Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Minister of Mobility and the National Railway Company; Ms. Elke Van den Brandt, Brussels Region Mobility Minister; as well as Member of the European Parliament, Ms. Karima Delli and Director-General of DG Reform, Mr. Mario Nava.
Currently, the campaign is displayed in the streets of Brussels, Liège, Antwerp, Lier and also at Brussels Airport. Over the next two years, the initiative will expand to 80 countries worldwide, appearing on billboards and in public areas. It will reach approximately 1,000 cities and will be translated into 30 languages. Through active involvement in the “Making a Safety Statement” campaign, the campaign hopes to decrease risk factors, especially in urban areas, enabling people to walk, live, cycle, use public transport and enjoy their environment safely.