Road safety advocacy

To minimise death and injury on the roads, advocacy for more road safety is necessary. Advocacy is the act of arguing for action on behalf of a particular issue and the process of influencing, informing and assisting decision and policy makers. The case should be based on well documented studies and numbers. Only with good information can good decisions be made. Sometimes advocacy targets media, sometimes the general public, but decision makers are normally the primary target.

A good example of road safety advocacy activities at the global level is the Make Roads Safe campaign. It launches a constant flow of videos and reports documenting the need and organizes high-level events with well known figure heads of the world like Kofi Annan, Tony Blair, Desmond Tutu, and Michael Schumacher speaking on behalf of the cause, as well as working with national partners to mobilize people to sign petitions and lobby governments.

The purpose is to increase awareness of road safety and adding the issue of global road traffic injuries to the G8 and UN agendas, pushing for declarations, UN resolutions and recently to press for a ministerial conference in Moscow in 2009. The campaign uses strong messages to get the necessary attention eg: a child dies every 3 minutes, and that road safety is an issue of human rights. On a practical level they concretely recommend that all donor supported road projects in developing countries should include a minimum 10% road safety component, to ensure roads are designed with safety in mind and that effective engineering, enforcement and education measures are combined together to promote injury prevention.

Another very strong global advocate for road safety is the Global Road Safety Forum (GRSF) which helps raise awareness and brings people together to address the global road safety crisis in developing and transitioning countries. This includes facilitating collaboration, especially with major institutional bodies, and organising inclusive stakeholders' forums regionally and globally. The Forum organised the First UN Stakeholders' Forum at the United Nations Headquarters, New York in 2004 and the Second at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland in April 2007 linked with the first Global Road Safety Week. The Forum's main focus is on its regional activities in Latin-America.

Other global organisations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and UNAIDS are global leaders when it comes to advocacy for the vulnerable. The International Red Cross, working in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, advocates for humanitarian principles and action, to defend the cause of vulnerable people and victims of conflicts or other disasters.

Communication and advocacy are very important elements in raising awareness, changing attitudes, sharing expertise and experience, and raising funds. UNAIDS has produced a guide on advocacy, focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention among injecting drug users. However it offers good general guidance on the principles of advocacy and the "advocacy process" from analysis to developing a strategy to implementation and evaluation. It also covers use of research, community based approaches and working with the mass media.

The World Health Organization (WHO) supports collaboration among non-governmental organisations who advocate for road safety and the rights of injured persons and their families. Initiated in September 2003 in the context of planning for World Health Day 2004, a first meeting of the informal collaboration convened representatives of 12 NGO's. Since then the collaboration has been sustained through consultation, participation in meetings and joint project activities, and exchange of information. The NGOs have been instrumental in establishing a Day of Remembrance for Road Accident Victims, observed on the third Sunday in November each year. Several of the NGOs are partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration, coordinated by WHO and the United Nations Regional Commissions including the Global Road Safety Partnership, the Association for Safe International Road Travel and the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims.

On a regional level, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) is an independent, non-profitmaking organisation dedicated to the reduction of the number and severity of transport crash injuries in Europe. ETSC seeks to identify and promote effective measures on the basis of international scientific research and best practice in areas which offer the greatest potential for a reduction in transport crashes and casualties. Founded in 1993, ETSC provides an impartial source of expert advice on transport safety matters to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and member states.

Road safety advocacy is also undertaken at the local level by individuals, community groups, national NGOs or non-profit organisations. Often they will be advocating on specific issues like pedestrian safety, support for victims, drink drive problems, seatbelts, or demanding more traffic policing.

There are a number of national road safety advocacy groups. A unique initiative is the "Youth Association for Social Awareness (YASA) in Lebanon, established and run by a youth group. YASA aims at safety promotion and injury prevention achieved through public awareness campaigns. YASA has organized numerous safety promotion and injury prevention campaigns for various types of injuries. Internationally YASA has played an active role in persuading policy-makers and decision-makers of the necessity to treat injury prevention as a major public health issue and in the preparation of many laws and regulations related to public safety in various Arab countries.

The American based Association for Safe International Travel (ASIRT) has good links to the US Congress. ASIRT serves to make the U.S. Congress more aware of road safety as a global issue and they are now encouraging U.S. embassies to inform American travellers of the risks of road travel abroad. ASIRT also advocates that Congress mandate U.S. agencies with expertise in road safety and injury treatment to provide greater road safety and crash prevention assistance to the developing world.

Drive Alive in South Africa is a non-profit organisation committed to creating a new environment in which the number of road deaths and casualties will be drastically reduced. Founded in 1989 the organisation aims to:

  • Create hard hitting education campaigns that encourage South African drivers to adopt safer driving habits
  • Keep the public constantly aware and informed about road safety
  • Lobby for stricter legislation against reckless and drunken driving
  • Create a climate where Government recognises the necessity for increased traffic law.

In the UK, a key objective of the Justice Campaign created by RoadPeace is to provide support for victims of road crashes and campaigning for justice, road safety and road danger reduction. It operates a national helpline for crash victims offering confidential emotional and practical support and provides direct support and specialist advice for people bereaved and injured in road crashes.

Lobby groups can be very powerful and have long had the ear of governments. On a global level, the United Nations often ask lobby groups for advice and invite them to be members of working groups. Their influence should not be underestimated. They are the voice of society.

Other useful NGO links are:

Case Studies