Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

How Can Road Safety Be Improved in Latin America?

More than 105,000 people are killed in road crashes every year in Latin America, Claudia Adriazola-Steil says below. // File Photo: Guatemalan Government.

Better road safety in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Brazil could save $29 billion over the next decade, according to new research sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Meanwhile, weak vehicle safety standards in the four countries will lead to more than 25,000 deaths over the next decade, researchers at the U.K.-based Transport Research Laboratory found. How does Latin America compare to other parts of the world in terms of road safety? Why aren’t higher safety standards and better regulations in place? What steps should countries of Latin America and the Caribbean take to prevent road fatalities and serious injuries, and what indirect benefits could this bring?

 

Claudia Adriazola-Steil, director of the Health and Road Safety Program at the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at the World Resources Institute: “More than 105,000 people lose their lives in traffic crashes across Latin America every year. While in Europe the fatality rate per 100,000 people can be as low as two, the rate in Latin America ranges from 8.5 (Cuba) to 33.7 (El Salvador). What’s even more concerning is that deaths are trending up, increasing more than 8 percent over the last three years. Pedestrians account for more than half of all deaths, and motorcyclist deaths are also spiking. Despite the alarming trend, road safety is rarely a political priority in the region. In most places, it is managed as a siloed topic with a slim budget. It is not integrated into infrastructure investments or urban planning, and there is an overemphasis on the responsibility of the road user, rather than planners or policymakers. There is an outdated perspective that is not in line with what we know about road safety. To create safer roads, policymakers need to understand that humans make mistakes and are inherently vulnerable to injury; thus, responsibility needs to be shared to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries. Leaders needs to be proactive rather than reactive. This ‘Safe System’ approach to road safety has been proven to…”

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