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Michelle Yeoh, NYC Mayor Bloomberg Boost MDB Road Safety Initiative

April 21, 2011

Film actress Michelle Yeoh, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Kenyan road safety advocate Casey Marenge joined World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick on April 19 to boost a joint initiative by seven multilateral development banks to improve road safety and raise awareness of the UN Decade for Road Safety 2011-2020.

Michelle YeohThere are too many 'smart' highways with too few crosswalks for the communities they have split apart. | Michelle Yeoh, Actress and Global Ambassador for Make Roads Safe campaign

With 1.3 million people killed and up to 50 million injured every year in road crashes, 90 percent of them in developing countries, traffic accidents have become the leading cause of death for young people aged 5 to 29. Road crashes now kill more people worldwide than malaria.

“There are far too many families whose lives have been shattered by unnecessary road accidents,” said Michelle Yeoh, who is global ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign. One of those families is that of Casey Marenge, who told the audience at World Bank headquarters that she has been a quadriplegic since a road crash in Kenya eight years ago. “My mother had to leave employment to devote herself to full-time caregiving,” Marenge said. “Road accidents are not an act of God, or meant to happen. We can prevent them.”

Michael BloombergThe MDB Road Safety Initiative will have a big impact because MDBs can get big things done on a large scale, making new roads safe roads. | Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City

Robert Zoellick urged countries to invest in road safety, and called on donors to provide funds through the MDB Road Safety Initiative, endorsed by six regional banks in addition to the World Bank Group, namely the Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Islamic Development Bank, and European Investment Bank.

Both financing and capacity-building in developing countries are needed, he said, to meet the goals of the UN Decade. The goal is to reduce the forecast 2020 level of road deaths by 50 percent, from 1.9 million to fewer than one million a year. Achieving the 2020 target could save up to five million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries.

Robert B. ZoellickIn Sweden, about three people per 100,000 die in road accidents every year. But in India, the death rate is almost 17 per 100,000 – that’s almost six times Sweden’s death rate. | Robert B. Zoellick, President, The World Bank Group,

“We must make road safety a more urgent priority in the development assistance provided by multilateral development banks for road projects,” Zoellick said. “Otherwise, the cost to developing countries is too great. We must deliver the needed resources to create transformational change for safety.”

Zoellick lauded the efforts of the Bloomberg Philanthropies, under the direction of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which has contribution in partnership with the World Bank to road safety assessments and other projects in China, India and Russia. It’s part of a five-year, $125-million effort in 10 low-and-middle-income countries that produces a large proportion of the world’s traffic deaths and injuries, Bloomberg said.

The MDB Road Safety Initiative sponsors are committed to building partnerships and raising funds from governments, the private sector and voluntary organizations to support projects in developing countries. The initiative has been coordinated by the Global Road Safety Facility.

The initiative calls for an integrated Safe System approach which promotes shared responsibility for ensuring safe mobility, and starts with countries naming a lead agency to direct a national road safety strategy.

Casey Marenge"My mother had to leave employment to devote herself to full-time caregiving. Road accidents are not an act of God, or meant to happen. We can prevent them." | Casey Marenge, Kenyan road accident victim who became a quadriplegic

The Safe System approach recognizes that human error is inevitable and should not be punished by death or serious injury. It calls for road transport systems designed and operated to ensure far greater protection for all their users. This depends on a shared responsibility for safety among all partners and stakeholders to align safety management decision-making with a country’s economic, human and environmental goals. Ultimately, a Safe System depends on increasing public awareness of and demand for safe road transport services and products.

“Road safety is too often an afterthought,” said Michelle Yeoh. “There is urgency for action now. Your banks were built with the highest principles, and it is time to direct those founding principles to taking action on road safety.”


Contributed by Christopher Neal, Senior Communications Officer, Transport, Water and Information and Communication Technology, The World Bank

Last updated: 2011-04-21

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