EMBARQ Health and Road Safety Director presents at first-ever Towards Zero conference in Sweden
On June 4th, 2013, Claudia Adriazola-Steil, Director of EMBARQ’s Health and Road Safety program presented at Towards Zero, a world leading road safety conference held in Sweden. The country is known for its bold road safety efforts, but this is the first time it has hosted such a large event on the topic. There, in front of hundreds of road safety experts and decision makers Adriazola-Steil explained the growing burden of traffic fatalities in cities around the world, and how EMBARQ’s approach to health and road safety can help address the problem of dangerous traffic systems.
Focusing on people instead of cars
Adriazola-Steil explained that in 2011, the world reached an astonishing 1 billion cars on the road. Even more startling is the prediction that by 2021, we will have doubled that number if we stay on a business-as-usual trajectory. Additionally, more and more of the world’s population will be concentrated in cities. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban environments, where people and cars compete for space. This explains why traffic accidents are already one of the leading causes of premature death worldwide, and why the number of fatalities is only expected to increase. She showed that 90% of traffic fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries, and that 70% involve vulnerable users of the road – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, etc. With such an imbalance in the distribution of traffic fatalities, health and road safety becomes an issue of equality.
Adriazola-Steil also underlined how EMBARQ’s Health and Road Safety effort can help to combat these trends and improve the quality of people’s lives within urban environments by focusing on the needs of people instead of vehicles. This means reducing exposure to risk by reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled, reducing road speeds through traffic calming and other approaches, and providing infrastructure that protects pedestrians, bikers and all street users. By treating traffic safety as a top priority, cities can improve air quality, increase the opportunities for physical activity, reduce stress, and alleviate inequalities.
Urban density and mixed-use as the preferred path to less road fatalities
Shifting the method of transport to high quality, sustainable options is a significant part of the puzzle in making roads safer, but other tactics are necessary as well. Adriazola-Steil explained how, in addition to shifting to sustainable transport, encouraging high density development will be instrumental in reducing the number of traffic injuries. Higher density of buildings and mixed use – commercial and residential – mean that people can altogether avoid transport, effectively reducing risk. Using data from a study done by the World Bank, she demonstrated the direct correlation between traffic fatalities and vehicle miles traveled. The message was clear: in order to continue to reduce the number of traffic fatalities, we need to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled: i.e. avoid or reduce the distance of motorized trips.
One way to do this is to make sure that cities have a human scale. EMBARQ’s Health and Road safety team assists cities in their urban planning by recommending street designs that calm traffic, reducing block sizes, and finding ways to improve walking environments for pedestrians. Compact cities with public transportation and plentiful public green spaces can prevent accidents and save millions of lives. The work of Health and Road Safety also goes beyond traffic safety to make people healthier and more active, while reducing air pollution.
To view Adriazola-Steil's presentation, click here.
EMBARQ’s Health and Road Safety program works to improve the quality of people’s lives within urban environments in developing countries by making cities safer by design. By focusing on the needs of people instead of vehicles, we transform cities and transport options to protect pedestrians, bikers, and drivers. For more information, please contact Claudia Adriazola-Steil, Director, Health & Road Safety Program at 1-(202)-729-7728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.