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UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety returns to Southeast Asia to call for more investment in road safety

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety returns to Southeast Asia to call for more investment in road safety

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The Special Envoy will travel in South-East Asia and will meet with Ministers as well as the private sector, public sector and NGO stakeholders in Lao PDR (5-7 April), Thailand (10 April), the Philippines (11-14 April) and Malaysia (17-19 April) to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 with the aim of halving the number of victims on the road by 2030.    South-East Asia is one of the regions of the world most affected by road crashes.

Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of fatalities and life-long disabilities in Asia, with fifty-eight percent of the world’s 1.3 million road deaths occurring in the Asia-Pacific region.   Although road traffic death in the Asia and the Pacific region in 2019 showed a decrease of 12% from 2016, the rate across the region still remains high and efforts need to be made, particularly for the most vulnerable road users and countries.   

South-East Asia faces high mortality rates…

According to the World Health Organization, South-East Asia has the second highest road traffic fatality rate of 20.7 per 100,000 population after Africa which is 26.6 per 100,000 population. Thailand and Malaysia are among the most vulnerable countries in the region with a fatality rate of 32.2 and 23.6 per 100,000 population, respectively. In Lao PDR, annual crashes rose by 35% between 2010 and 2020, and the number of fatalities increased by 67% to reach over a thousand.  The WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 shows an increasing trend in road traffic deaths in the Philippines, with a fatality rate of 12.3 per 100,000 population. By comparison, the fatality rate is 9.3 per 100,000 population in Europe.


… and rapid motorization

Asian countries have experienced rapid motorisation in recent years, especially concerning motorised 2-3 wheelers.  Particular attention should be paid to this mode of transport which represent 40 % of crash fatalities in South AsiaThailand reports the highest rate of motorcycle-related deaths in the world while nearly 60% of all road traffic deaths in Malaysia are riders of motorcycles. According to the Health Department of the Philippines, 65% of road crash victims are motorcycle riders. According to a survey in Lao PDR, only 64% of motorcycle riders controlled were wearing helmets, with females more likely than men to be wearing one, but only 10% of child passengers wore helmetsIt is therefore urgent to implement proven solutions that can save lives such as wearing a certified quality helmet which could reduce the risk of fatality by 42% and injuries by 69%.

Southeast Asia faces a tragedy on the roads. However, solutions exist, combining policy enforcement and education. Simple gestures can also save lives, such as wearing a seatbelt or a helmet, not driving under influence, not texting while driving, or reducing speed”, highlights the Special Envoy

The region has taken new initiatives to strengthen safety on the roads. For example, activities to implement the Global Plan have been initiated in Malaysia, from the safety of vehicles – especially motorcycles – to improving road infrastructure. In 2021, the Child Restraint System law was implemented with the aim of reducing fatalities amongst children. The country also designed a National Road Safety Plan for 2030 aligned to the 12 UN Voluntary Global Road Safety Performance Targets, in a very big step forward. There are also projects being supported by the UN Road Safety Fund in the Lao, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia.

Road crashes represent a huge cost to people and societies

In addition to the human loss, road crashes draw the most vulnerable into a vicious cycle of poverty, from medical costs, material damage, loss of economic capacity and mobilization. According to a World Bank report on private investment, road fatalities cost economies $1.7 trillion dollars per year, and from three to five percent of GDP. According to the World Bank (WB 2016), the cost of road crashes represents 5.4% of GDP in Lao PDR, 4.1% of GDP in the Philippines, and as high as 8% of Malaysia’s GDP .  A study by the World Bank (2017) reports that if Thailand would cut road traffic mortality rates by 50% over a period of 24 years, it could generate additional income equivalent to 22.2% of GDP. This shows how investing in road safety pays off.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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