Securing Safe Roads: The Politics of Change

An estimated 1.25 million people are killed and a staggering 50 million are injured in traffic collisions each year. Yet, road safety remains a remarkably low political priority in cities around the world. In many cases, road safety is seen to be in direct conflict with other priorities, such as reducing congestion or shortening journey times. New research led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities finds it is possible to balance competing priorities and save lives by reframing road fatalities as a public health issue and taking a more integrated approach to road safety, strategies that are already working in some cities.

The challenge is that both politicians and the public tend to blame individual road users for collisions, rather than policymakers or planners. This report looks at ways to break through politics and bureaucracy, and make road safety a priority for government officials and residents alike. The report recommends:

  • Reframing road safety in public debates, making connections with issues that people care about such as the economy, equality and education
  • Building alliances at all levels of government: local, regional and national
  • Producing a dedicated road safety plan with short, medium and long-term aims and objectives

The report includes an in-depth analysis of three cities: Nairobi, Mumbai and Bogotá. The researchers found that Bogotá halved the number of traffic fatalities between 1996 and 2006, due in part to reframing road fatalities as a public health issue and taking an integrated approach to road safety. Improving public transit, and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in Bogotá also gave people safer travel options.

Read an interactive version of the report at:


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