World Youth Assembly for Road Safety

World Youth Assembly for Road Safety image

Text: Vic Rosales / Photos: Vic Rosales | posted May 10, 2007 11:03

Road Safety is no Accident

So goes the tag line for the First United Nations Global Road Safety Week's drive to promote road safety in the world. I was lucky enough to take part in the World Youth Assembly for Road Safety, the key global event for Global Road Safety Week which was held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland this past April 23-24, 2007. Going as the sole delegate for the Philippines, I was both excited and nervous about the opportunity, but I looked forward to learning from the best practices of other UN members on road safety in hopes of sharing these with our government. Maybe we?d be able to find some programs that can help build awareness for the importance of road safety in our country. This is my little narrative on why people from all over the world have gathered to promote it.

Why Road Safety?

According to the newest study created by the World Health Organization, Road Traffic Accidents has risen to become the number one killer for the youth, specifically those aged 10-24. As such not only has it become a tragedy affecting the future of our world, but it also has become a strong economic drain.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon?s opening address for the conference, on average road traffic accidents (RTAs) cost more than 1% of the GDP for developing nations. For developing nations this could have a strong impact on development because at the same time, on average, these growing countries receive just as much as they spend on RTAs from development aid. Meaning RTAs continue to hinder development. As such, Road Safety comes hand in hand with sustainable development. As countries grow, their roads increase with their transportation. That is why it becomes important that road safety grows proportionally as a country develops because it not only affects the lives of its citizen?s, but its fiscal development as well.

Through road safety week, The United Nations and the World Health Organization are giving a voice to the young people of the world, those most affected by road traffic accidents. The UN supports cooperation, drawing from the whole United Nations system. Ban Ki-Moon ends his speech by asking the world to listen to the youth; for they are not just the victims, but the agents of change.

But why is road safety important to a country?

According to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, prevention of mortality is part of public health and in developing nations, migration to urban areas makes road use increase and as income rises, cars and other means of transportation also increase. Planning does not usually accommodate all road users, i.e. bikers, motor cyclists and pedestrians, roads are also not made to accommodate high speed traffic. The pattern of death from injuries finds that the most vulnerable are kids playing on the streets and pedestrians. The youth thus must be tapped, not only because they are the victims of these accidents but because they also have the persuasive power and will to make a difference.

Promoting Safety on Our Roads

Mr. Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Transport identifies two things to address for road safety. The first is Infrastructure the second is attitude. In infrastructure he says it is good to put barriers for dangerous roads but he proposes that each time a road is made, there be a safety impact/collision report made for that specific road. He also suggests that it become mandatory to change rearview mirrors on lorries for better view of motorcycles, while still lauding car manufacturers for continuing to improve collision zones in cars. He also suggests a car assessment program for people buying cars. This program will help inform car buyers on the important parts of a car and its safety options so that they may better utilize these. Making electronic stability control mandatory in vehicles is another option he raises. Making these safety devices not just for huge vehicles but for smaller ones as well because these are the vehicles kids are more likely to buy because they are less expensive. For Europe he is also proposing a single driver?s license, centralized for computers to avoid people going to another country to apply for a license if theirs is revoked in their home country. This also will stop fakes. He also states that one-fifth of road traffic accidents are from motorcycle use, if continued till 2010, it shall rise to one-third. That is why the EU shall make a charter just for road safety.

The Importance of Road Safety in Developing Countries

Former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair spoke during the conference. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of road safety in developing countries. He stated that in developing nations, 100 billion dollars a year is spent on road injuries based on statistics by the World Bank. Road traffic injuries thus become a hindrance in the fight against poverty and other issues. Often in developing countries RTAs are under reported or not reported at all because they are too poor to come out or trivialize the importance of road safety not just to their lives, but to the economic cost to the country as well.

Worldwide Support for Road Safety

Aside from the Secretary-General, The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Ms. Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa also showed her support along with the UN on the drive for road safety.

Other people that spoke during the first day were Moby, a famous musician, Ms. Bright Oywaya, a survivor of a tragic crash who has been paralyzed from the neck below and Mr. Peter Geszti, family of a victim of a road crash.

Moby, a celebrity that believes in the road safety advocacy, showed commitment to road safety because of the massive toll it took on the world?s youth.

Ms. Oywaya was in the hospital for 10 months and was pitied in her office that was not wheelchair friendly. According to her speech, 60% of injuries in the Spinal Injury Hospital come from Road Traffic Accidents. She became depressed and invisible while constantly getting infections.

Mr. Peter Geszti narrated the death of his relative Botage who died at the age of 24 during the day of his sister?s wedding because of drunk driving. He tried to get the keys to the car but Botage still insisted on driving. They convoyed Botage home but he went out again and crashed off a bridge going 190 KPH at an area with a maximum speed of 50KPH.

Some Road Safety Statistics

Ms. Precious Mumbi, Youth delegate from Zambia then went on to give some road safety facts such as:

* Males are more likely to be killed in an RTA than females.

* Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by 70% in Motorcycles

* A 5% increase in speed leads to an increase of about 20% for a fatal crash

* Not being seen a major reason for collisions on the road

* Child restraints can reduce death among infants by 70% and for children below 4 by 50%

Road Safety and Racing

The last speaker on road crashes was Alex Wurz, a Formula 1 driver that presented a video of a crash experienced going at almost 300 KPH. Although he walked away uninjured from his crash, the message he wished to convey was that the youth must be informed about the misconception that racing is a reckless sport and road safety is not cool. The very essence of road safety is embedded even in Formula 1 because these vehicles are made to be safe at the highest speeds. This was to show people that the proper context must be used in a valid sport like racing, do not race on roads and do not use commercial vehicles in racing because these are not tailored to be safe at the extreme speeds race cars are run. Race tracks are often built with strong safety barriers and a safety crew/ambulance is always there for them in the case of an emergency. Road Safety and Cool can be used in the same sentence, and Formula 1 is the biggest example of that. Road safety is not just about passive safety, but it is made through educating people about it.

Youth Oriented Projects on Road Safety

One of the more youth oriented projects came from a bar project wherein the youth went to drinking pubs with a breathalyzer test and those who failed the test, receive a sticker that said ?I failed the alcohol test, someone driver for me!? or an even cuter, ?I?ve drank too much, can you take me home?? The use of wrist bands and other popular youth trinkets help create impressions on the youth while not costing much relative to commercials. The importance of complete motorcycle gear is also stressed, not just the usage of a helmet, but accessories that completely protect the body such as full body suits or spine protectors.

Delegates from Australia have initiatives from both their Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) that suggest random roadside breathalyzer tests. The RACV is promoting a don?t drive when tired program to raise awareness to 18-25 year olds about the dangers of driving when tired. They promote their campaigns through youth oriented mediums such as the internet through their website: that disseminates information.

The delegation from China talked about their Road Safety Research Center which spoke of the factors affecting traffic safety, namely people and awareness. The function of the Road Safety Research Center was to research and design traffic engineering to make Chinese roads safe for the public.

Of course the Philippines shared its own initiatives for road safety which include the Ford Road Safety Youth Council. The organization promotes road safety by engaging the youth to create awareness on the importance of road safety in their lives. Through the council, the flagship R.I.D.E. (Responsibility In Driver Education) program is better suited to overcoming the obstacles in promoting road safety to the youth. In making a program for the youth and by the youth, the Ford RSYC hopes to better propagate the lessons of road safety while serving as role models to their family, peers and members in their communities. For more information, visit their website at or to see their local activities visit

Commemorating those who have perished from Road Traffic Accidents

After the country presentations were made, we then proceeded to the garden where we were to release 1,049 balloons symbolizing the young lives lost daily on the world?s roads. Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention of WHO also announced that the 3rd Sunday of November shall become a day of remembrance for deaths caused by Road Traffic Accidents.

Global Road Safety Competitions

An awards ceremony for the ?Global Road Safety Film Competition? and the ?Voices of Youth Creative Writing Competition? was held for the winners. Young writers and film makers from all around the world created short road safety films to create awareness for its importance. The youth also wrote on the importance of road safety in their lives and how it has affected them.

Global Effort

During the plenary session delegates were then allowed to give a word on the road safety initiative and what their country was doing for road safety. Representatives from all around the world spoke on their initiatives in their homelands for road safety. I was able to report the efforts of our own country, with the Department of Health successfully launching their road safety initiative on April 23rd with about 50 other agencies in attendance and the creation and dissemination of road safe comics and manuals used for the youth, the youth being the central theme of the road safety launch in the Philippines.

Global Youth Declaration for Road Safety

The culmination of the event was the adoption of the Youth Declaration for Road Safety. The statement called for all sectors of society to promote the cause of road safety, from governments, to private companies, parents to children, telling them that road safety is no accident and that it happens through the deliberate actions of individuals.

Every one of us has a role to play: ministers of transport, health and education; health care providers; automobile associations; educators; students; insurers; vehicle manufacturers; the media; drivers; pedestrians and victims of road traffic crashes and their families.

Road Safety Starts with YOU!

So before you start getting annoyed at drivers on EDSA, let us remember that road safety is a continuous effort. It is something that we have to practice for ourselves as well as pass on to others through education. If the United Nations is getting involved in the effort, it must mean its something important, right? So the next time you get cut off or feel the urge to start racing on public roads, remember that your life and that of those around you is the future of our world. Road Safety is about saving lives. Road Safety is No Accident.