The EBRD and road safety

By Volker Ahlemeyer

Road casualties are a growing concern in the world, particularly in transition and developing countries where the situation has deteriorated rapidly due to the rapidly growing number of cars. Road traffic injuries remain a major public health problem and a leading cause of death, injury and disability around the world.

Each year, nearly 1.3 million people die and between 20 million and 50 million more are injured as a result of road crashes. More than 90 per cent of these deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have less than half of the world’s vehicles.

Road traffic injuries are among the three leading causes of death for people between 5 and 44 years of age and are already the number one killer of young people aged over 10 worldwide.

In order to attract attention to the problem and reduce the growing number of global road fatalities and injuries, the United Nations established a Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020). Furthermore, the RIO+20 Conference (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) proposed road safety as one of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

The FIA Foundation, a charity founded with the help of world motor sports organisation the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), supports this work with various initiatives. Its Road Safety Scholarship Programme is aimed at outstanding individuals working to make roads safe in their countries. It brings together talented young professionals from around the globe for a two-week intensive course on road safety policy and promotion.

Stanislav Suprunenko, the EBRD’s Principal Environmental Specialist, recently took part in the programme. The EBRD is increasingly introducing various safety components into its projects (e.g. road rehabilitation schemes, urban transport, loans to logistic companies etc.) and Mr Suprunenko is involved in many of them.

Unfortunately, the Bank’s countries of operations require a lot of attention, due to various and complex reasons starting from lack of investment in road safety infrastructure, outdated standards, poor enforcement and dangerous behaviour and driving culture.

The EBRD region suffers more than 50,000 traffic-related deaths and 500,000 serious casualties annually. With 15 deaths per 100,000 people, the EBRD regional average is 2.5 times higher than in western Europe.

“Road traffic injuries threaten to hinder achievements in economic and human development,” said Mr Suprunenko. Global losses due to road traffic injuries are estimated to total US$ 518 billion and cost governments between 1 and 3 per cent of their gross national product. They also can put considerable financial stress on affected families, who often must absorb medical and rehabilitation costs, funeral costs and other costs such as loss of the victim's earnings, in addition to extensive emotional strain.

“My primary goal in attending the scholarship programme was to obtain information to help enhance the EBRD’s role in integrating and promoting road safety in its projects and countries of operations,” Mr Suprunenko said. “It also provided a great opportunity to obtain important information and to develop a network of contacts with committed road safety professionals from different countries.”

The scholarship covered more than 20 diverse topics, including site visits demonstrating safe road design as well as seminars on sustaining political support for road safety and the role of international organisations in promoting awareness of the issue.

“The training helped increase my skills and encouraged me to play a more active role, together with my colleagues, in raising road safety awareness and building the internal capacity and expertise to properly address road safety issues in our projects,” said Mr Suprunenko. “I've also seen practical examples of how results can be achieved even in countries facing the severest challenges.”

The FIA Foundation has made all its scholarship training materials available to EBRD specialists. Its management has also offered help to provide specific support on various road safety issues through the organisation’s network of professionals and experts.