23 Sep 2019
The merger of Global NCAP and the Towards Zero Foundation

By David Ward

The merger of Global NCAP and the Toward Zero Foundation has given us a new opportunity to review and refocus our charitable aims and objectives. We want to transform road transport so that it no longer represents a significant risk to public health. We share the ‘Vision Zero’ perspective that no road fatalities are acceptable, and we recognise that improved road safety must go hand in hand with efforts to make our transport system environmentally friendly.

A global mandate for our work is already contained in the UN’s transport related SDGs and they will be our primary focus in the decade ahead. We want to focus on the nearterm transformation that is needed to make our road transport system much safer and less damaging to the environment. If we accept ‘business as usual’ the World Bank estimates that by 2030 road crashes will cause another 21.7 million deaths and 875.7 million serious injuries. It is also remarkable that today road crashes are the leading cause of death of children and young people. This is simply unacceptable and shows why global action to improve road safety needs to be strengthened and integrated into strategies promoting sustainable transport. For example, better speed management will make our roads safe but will also help to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

Although a lot of attention is devoted to autonomous vehicles, the reality is that they are still decades away from mass deployment and their eventual safety impact is uncertain. Our priority is to accelerate implementation of today’s best available technologies and interventions that can shift our road transport system onto a decisive downward path towards zero fatalities and emissions. This will require much more than appeals for behaviour change. We need structural change in both the supply and demand of our essential mobility. That is why we support the ‘avoid, shift and improve’ policy paradigm to make transport systems both safe and sustainable.

This is fully consistent with the ‘safe systems’ approach which places human vulnerability to harm at the centre of our transport system. It is not acceptable any longer to ‘blame the victim’ for road injury or treat safety as an afterthought or optional extra. We want to democratize safety for the benefit of all, including vulnerable road users. For this to happen protecting public health must be a pre-requisite of the engineering and management of all our roads and vehicles. We also recognise that improving transport safety and sustainability requires international collaboration and global partnerships. Global NCAP and the Stop the Crash Partnership, for example, are helping to build a market for safer vehicles worldwide through the combination regulatory push and demand pull. This experience exemplifies our support for implementation of the SDGs through partnerships and why we are proud to host and participate in some of the world’s most impactful multi-stakeholder initiatives in safe and sustainable transport.

Underpinning these efforts is our advocacy work at the UN, the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth. The UN Decade of Action for Road Safety and the transport related SDGs have achieved some positive results but far below the scale required. Levels of implementation and funding are not yet fit for purpose. That is why a new global mandate for improved road safety is urgently needed, and why we are leading the #50by30 campaign for a new target to halve road deaths and serious injuries by 2030. This is an ambitious but achievable target which can serve as a benchmark for progress to the kind of world the Towards Zero Foundation wants to see; a world where roads are no longer a major risk to public health.