FIA President Jean Todt's goal to improve road safety standards around the world today received a boost with the creation of a High Level Panel for Road Safety in conjunction with the United Nations.
Todt was named UN Special Envoy for Road Safety earlier this year by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the launching of this new panel is aimed at bringing together global decision makers to help fight a pandemic that is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-29, killing 1.25 million people per year.
The current year marks the midpoint of the UN's Decade of Action for Road Safety, during which member states committed to halving global road deaths by 2020. But governments are falling short of meeting their targets, and the panel has been partially created with a view to remobilising global enthusiasm for the necessary task.
Through a combination of funding and awareness it is hoped that the panel can help reignite the fight to save lives on the road, making the most of the members' contacts and networks to inspire and educate governments, business leaders, and ordinary citizens alike.
One aim is to establish a UN Road Safety Fund to finance improved road safety programmes around the world, and to "catalyse major public and private investments and launch a number of stand-alone lead projects", including undertaking national road safety capacity reviews, creating injury prevention programmes such as establishing independent crash test programmes and seat belt and helmet promotion initiatives; and improving data management of road traffic accident statistics so as to better target preventive measures.
"The FIA High Level Panel for Road Safety is a unique initiative supporting an exceptional objective – a 50 per cent reduction of fatalities on the world's roads in the next five years, a target recognised under the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals," said Todt at the launch at the United Nations' New York headquarters.
"The panel members, all of them leaders in their field, will work toward this goal through raising the necessary funds and awareness to stop and reverse the tragic loss of life on our roads."
Members have committed to "push the road safety crisis to the top of the global health and development agenda" and to "deploy their networks to respond to the global road safety challenge" while "working with external partners such as governments, private sector companies and philanthropic organisations ... to promote innovative financing solutions with the goal of carrying out new programmes on the ground in low- and middle-income countries."
In addition, and "supported by selected road safety experts, the panel will analyse the most effective programs in low- and middle-income countries, taking from best practices in developed countries where rapid progress has been made over the past 30 years".
Panel members include high-level automotive executives, such as General Motors CEO Mary Barra; Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance; and Michelin President and CEO Jean-Dominique Sénard, but the need to combat the scourge that is premature loss of life on the roads has also mobilised such corporate giants as Coca-Cola and FedEx to nominate members to the panel.
Road safety is not simply a health crisis but also an issue of development, with 90 per cent of road deaths taking place in the developed world, despite significantly lower rates of car ownership per capita.
Fifty-four per cent of the world's vehicles can be found on those roads which account for 90 per cent of fatalities, and with rates of car ownership on the rise it is a problem which will get worse, not better, if it is not tackled at source.
Contributing to the panel - and to the global fight to help defeat what Todt refers to as a "silent pandemic" - are a number of global development chiefs. Secretary General and CEO of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Elhadj As Sy has joined as a member, while the World Bank Group's Managing Director and CFO Bertrand Badré, UNECE Executive Secretary and Under-Secretary-General Christian Friis Bach, and President of the Inter-American Development Bank Luis Alberto Moreno are all acting as advisors.