Analysis: Why Todt’s call to reduce road deaths should be acted upon

Since taking the helm of the FIA in 2009, Jean Todt has made road safety a high priority for the Federation. And quite rightly so, says Kate Walker.

Analysis: Why Todt’s call to reduce road deaths should be acted upon
Jean Todt, FIA President
Jean Todt, FIA President
Jean Todt, FIA President and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 promote a FIA Road Safety campaign
Jean Todt, FIA President
Jean Todt, FIA president
FIA Road Safety photoshoot: FIA President Jean Todt, France President François Hollande and ACO President Pierre Fillon with drivers
FIA Road Safety photoshoot: FIA President Jean Todt, France President François Hollande and ACO President Pierre Fillon
Jean Todt, FIA President
Jean Todt, president of the FIA

While the president has been criticised for his efforts by many of those who feel Formula 1 should be the beneficiary of his full attention, few of those who travel with the F1 circus would deny that road safety standards around the world are more of a privilege than the right they should be.

In recent years spent travelling for grands prix I have seen dried gourds used in place of motorcycle crash helmets; drivers electing to take the wrong route around a busy roundabout to reach the furthest exit; and convoys of vehicles driving the wrong way down motorways at night, and without lights. While these infractions are illegal in much of the world, in some countries they are common practice.

As a consequence, it is no surprise that global road safety statistics are horrifying: 1.3 million people per year die on the world’s roads. Among those deaths can be counted 500 children dying each day, or one child every three minutes. Road traffic accidents are the world’s eighth highest cause of death, and the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29.

A curable pandemic

When SARS hit the headlines in 2003, it led to 8,098 deaths around the world, and acres of media coverage. Avian flu has killed just over 200 people since the first recorded case in 1997, while the 2009 swine flu epidemic has been linked to 203,000 deaths. These medical epidemics have led to research efforts and global cooperation to stem the spread of disease, but the vastly more fatal pandemic of deaths on the road has been accepted by the world at large as a battle we are incapable of winning.

Writing this week on the Huffington Post website, Todt laid out his road safety agenda and the challenges currently being faced by those agencies fighting to improve road safety standards around the world. According to the FIA president, we are at serious risk of failing to hit the targets set out by the United Nations as we reach the midpoint of their declared Decade of Action for Road Safety.

In his call to arms, Todt highlights the need to use the global platform the UN enjoys to “create a focal point in terms of mobilizing the road safety community, world leaders and governments to fight for safer roads, safer vehicles and better driving rules.”

He adds: “The tools to achieve all this are already at hand. Over the past decades, under the auspices of UNECE, the United Nations has developed 58 conventions and agreements in relation to international transport. Many of them govern a huge variety of road safety areas, such as traffic rules, the standardization of road signs and signals as well as vehicle standards.

“These legal instruments are in place: we know how to build safer vehicles; we know how to build safe roads; we know the benefits of advanced and consistent traffic rules and road signs in making people use roads safer still.”

Time for public pressure for change

The issue is not that the world is ill-equipped to make the necessary changes to improve road safety standards around the world. The problem is that we have become inured to road deaths, and have accepted that fatalities are a natural consequence of our reliance on automotive transport.

But that attitude can – and should – change. By applying public pressure on our governments we can enforce a shift in attitude that will in turn affect regulation. Where once drunk driving was par for the course, a change in public opinion has improved both legislation and behaviour alike – few people would now consider it acceptable practice to get behind the wheel at the end of a night out.

Funding for road safety programmes in developing countries – home to 91 percent of the world’s road deaths – can be sourced by applying existing models to the current pandemic. As such, Todt suggested “the establishment of a financing mechanism based on the model of UNITAID and the contribution from plane tickets".

“This would take the form of marginal contribution on sales related to the automotive sector", he said. "Such a mechanism could rapidly generate extensive funding, which could then be poured into a global UN Fund for Road Safety to help developing countries face the challenges of road safety.”

Conclusion

The combination of advocacy, lobbying, and improved funding can help tackle road traffic fatalities on local, national, and global levels.

But the first step is getting the public at large on side, making improved road safety standards as big a priority for the world’s governments as battling the likes of avian flu, swine flu, and SARS were in their day.

Todt’s efforts to publicise the pandemic have been an excellent first step. The next step is for people to work together to get the message across on a global level.

shares
comments
Weekend round-up: Hamilton wins in Japan, Lorenzo strikes back, and more

Previous article

Weekend round-up: Hamilton wins in Japan, Lorenzo strikes back, and more

Next article

Top 10 photos of the week: 2015-09-30

Top 10 photos of the week: 2015-09-30
Load comments
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Prime

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

General
May 20, 2021
Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth Prime

Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth

Jean Todt has signalled that he will not stand for re-election as FIA president. Mark Gallagher analyses the strong credentials of one potential successor…

General
May 2, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Prime

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be.

General
Apr 21, 2021
The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction Prime

The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction

The forthcoming Netflix film linking the world of underworld crime and motorsport plays on a theme that isn't exactly new. Over the years, several shady figures have attempted to make it in racing before their dubious dealings caught up with them.

General
Jan 31, 2021
The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home Prime

The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home

Keeping trophies and momentos of key triumphs is par for the course for motorsport professionals, but what are the most cherished souvenirs picked up by the drivers and engineers who have seen and done it all?

General
Dec 26, 2020
Why motorsport should consider a mid-week future Prime

Why motorsport should consider a mid-week future

International motorsport has been the preserve of weekends, but the pandemic forced Formula E to get creative with its Berlin season finale as four races were held mid-week. Should FE and other series break with tradition and repeat the experiment?

General
Oct 5, 2020
How pragmatic principles made Ron Tauranac a design legend Prime

How pragmatic principles made Ron Tauranac a design legend

Jack Brabham's 1966 world championship campaign in his eponymous car was also a defining moment in the career of designer Ron Tauranac, who would apply the same ethos to his ultra-successful production racing car business, Ralt.

General
Jul 23, 2020
The ingrained failure motorsport must fix to avoid 'turf wars' Prime

The ingrained failure motorsport must fix to avoid 'turf wars'

OPINION: The FIA has warned that the major motorsport championships must not get engaged in 'turf wars' when it comes to the urgent need to re-organising the 2020 calendars, but there are tedious past problems that must be addressed to satisfy all.

General
May 3, 2020