3 Star Coalition for safer roads

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Spot the difference – a 2 star road for pedestrians in the Philippines...
Spot the difference – a 2 star road for pedestrians in the Philippines...
…and a 4 star road in India. Improvements can be as simple as sidewalks and speed reductions
…and a 4 star road in India. Improvements can be as simple as sidewalks and speed reductions

A new coalition of organisations advocating for ‘minimum 3 star’ road infrastructure safety for all road users in developing countries has been established.

The ‘Three Star Coalition’, coordinated by the Fund for Global Health, aims to influence policy and engineering practice in multilateral development banks (MDBs), development agencies and national highway authorities in a push to promote safer road infrastructure design.

The coalition, which also includes the FIA Foundation, the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), AAA, and a number of other US-based highway safety organisations, is currently focusing on building US Congressional awareness and support for required stated minimum safety performance outcomes in all World Bank-financed road loans. These performance outcomes should be equivalent to a minimum ‘3 star’ (out of 5) safety rating for all road users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and vehicle occupants – as measured by iRAP, a non-profit charitable organisation which rates road infrastructure safety performance. The World Bank is currently consulting on its environmental and social Safeguard policies, and road traffic safety is included. But the consultation draft (see page 48) does not currently include any proposed specific performance measurement. 

The economic benefit of investing in safer infrastructure is highlighted in iRAP’s ‘Business Case for Safer Roads’. For example, iRAP estimates that raising the 10% highest risk roads in 82 low and low/middle income countries to at least a 3-star performance level would cost around US $70 billion but would prevent 20 million deaths and serious injuries and more than US $700 billion in economic costs over twenty years. Implementing safety improvements and counter-measures as part of initial road building or routine maintenance, rather than the traditional approach of reacting to ‘black spots’ after fatal crashes have occurred, is a more cost-effective and comprehensive approach.

As a key element of the ‘Safe System’, a minimum safety performance requirement for roads is a proven way of reducing casualties. Leading road safety pioneers, including the Netherlands, New Zealand and states in Australia, are using star rating assessments as a performance measurement tool. In the context of fast-motorising countries like Brazil, China and India, safety assessment can help to guide billions of dollars of new road investment in a safer direction. Demonstration projects in India, co-funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the World Bank, are showing that minimum star ratings provide a clear framework for developing both policy and engineering solutions network-wide, and measuring outcomes. In China, RAP is embedded within the Ministry of Transport as a research programme guiding a number of significant demonstration projects. With strong buy-in from partners in low- and middle-income countries, the 3 Star Coalition now wants to see all development banks adopting iRAP ratings, or equivalents, to provide transparency and accountability in road safety performance.

The Fund for Global Health, led by Ernest Loevinhson, formerly Director of Global Health Advocacy & Policy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has identified improving road infrastructure safety as an area which can provide “maximum possible health benefit to vulnerable people in developing countries”. The Fund for Global Health is leading advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. Other members of the coalition include AAA, the American Highway Users Alliance, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Peace Corps Association, Make Road Safe U.S. and the Roadway Safety Foundation. For the FIA Foundation, a core donor to iRAP, the 3 Star Coalition is the latest stage of a ten-year effort, beginning with the launch of the Commission for Global Road Safety, to make safety a core focus of development bank road infrastructure lending. During that period the share of road safety spend within World Bank projects has increased significantly, and most MDBs are now much more aware and engaged in delivering road safety as a key outcome of their transport activities. But – and in the absence of effective data collection on deaths and serious injuries in many countries - there is still no transparent, publicly-available, safety performance measurement applied to all road projects, something which is essential for true accountability and for communicating to bank clients, policymakers, and the public, that roads can be, and are being, made safer. This is what the 3 Star Coalition aims to change.

Want to know more? Read about iRAP’s work in ‘Vaccines for Roads’

Get involved: Give the World Bank consultation your views (consultation ends 1st March 2015)

Photos courtesy of iRAP.