Special Envoy for Road Safety Meets with Belgian and EU Officials in Brussels

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt, will be in Brussels on 8-9 December 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. The Special Envoy will meet with representatives of the Belgian Government and European Union institutions. Mr Todt will also address relevant partners at high-level events during these dates.

With 1.3 million people killed on the road every year worldwide, road crashes rank as the first cause of death in young people aged five to 29, and the eighth cause of death overall. While more than 90% of road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries, in Belgium, the number of road deaths has exploded in 2022. According to the road safety barometer of the Vias institute, the number of fatalities on Belgian roads increased by 16% in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year. At the national level, the most worrying trend is observed among pedestrians and cyclists, who represent one in four victims. Note that we have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of injuries due to crashes with electric scooter users, which tripled in the first half of the year.

In March 2022, the European Commission published road safety figures for 2021 for the EU, showing that 19,800 people were killed in road crashes last year, an increase of around 1,000 deaths from 2020. According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), more than 6,000 children up to the age of 14 died between 2011 and 2020 in road collisions in the European Union, including 220 children in Belgium. There are also huge disparities between EU countries, with the child road mortality rate in Romania being 10 times higher than in Norway, Cyprus and Sweden.

“And yet, the solutions to saving lives are often simple gestures: respecting speed limits, wearing a seatbelt, being sober at the wheel, being vigilant against drowsiness, wearing a helmet, not texting while on the road”, highlights the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt.

As for speeding, only seven countries in Europe have declared setting mandatory lower speed limits around schools. Similarly, ETSC developed 40 recommendations to national governments and the EU including safe cycling and walking routes to school, setting compulsory lower speed limits, or reviewing rules on theoretical and practical training for young people.

The special envoy is in Brussels to speak alongside European Commissioner for Transport, Ms. Adina Vălean at the EU Road Safety Results Conference‘s closing session on the importance of addressing road safety in the global south. Indeed, while high-income countries are not spared, the vast majority of road crash victims are in low- and middle-income countries. In addition to the personal tragedies caused by this silent pandemic, the cost of road crashes in developing countries equals between 2 and 5 percent of their GDP each year. That is a huge figure that could otherwise be spent on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Special Envoy will receive on this occasion a lifetime achievement prize awarded by the European Commission in recognition of his contribution to road safety. He will also participate in the European Commission Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support talks and will meet high-level European Union and Member States representatives such as Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility of Belgium .

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