Speaking at US foreign policy think tank, FIA Foundation urges focus on highway safety
Major road infrastructure investment in Asia and elsewhere must put people first and invest in safety, or governments will reap the consequences in a tragic and expensive road traffic injury epidemic, FIA Foundation chairman Lord Robertson has warned.
Delivering a speech to the US foreign policy think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Lord Robertson said:
“With billions of dollars being invested in new or upgraded highways in Asia, there is an opportunity to build in safety design that will protect people for decades to come. On the other hand, get it wrong now, and governments will see much of the economic benefit they anticipate, from improved trade routes and connectivity, being squandered in spiralling trauma and long-term health care costs.”
Lord Robertson spoke, by video, to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at the launch of their report, “Safety on the New Silk Road, Assessing Kazakhstan’s Highway.”
The CSIS report, launched on 16 June in Washington, DC, focuses on Central Asia, where road crashes are the 6th leading cause of death, higher than the global ranking of the 8th leading cause of death. With the influx of infrastructure development in many Central Asian countries, there is an opportunity to address this epidemic and improve road safety.
The study highlights known interventions and best practices, focusing on Kazakhstan. With the highest road traffic death rate among the 52 European and Central Asian countries examined in the World Health Organization’s most recent Global Status Report on Road Safety, Kazakhstan offers many opportunities for intervention. Approximately 17% of its highways are below internationally recognized minimum standards, and road crashes cost $9 billion annually, or 4% of GDP. The country is a centre for many infrastructure development initiatives, such as the United Nations’ Asian Highway Network (AHN), the Asian Development Bank’s Central Asia regional Economic Cooperation (CRAEC) program, and China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative.
The study helps set priorities within such initiatives by analysing road quality and crash data covering approximately 13,000 km of highways, representing 13.4% of Kazakhstan’s highway network. To build on analysis and review of international best practices, the study recommended cost-effective infrastructure measures to improve connectivity and road safety.
Commending the report, Lord Robertson highlighted the FIA Foundation’s partnership with the International Road Assessment Programme and said: “Infrastructure safety is proven to be a cost-effective investment particularly when integrated into wider construction and maintenance projects. Research undertaken for us by social impact experts in Australia who forensically calculated the real health costs of road traffic injuries found that early investment in safe infrastructure pays for itself three times over. So the question that finance ministers should ask themselves is this: Not whether road safety is affordable, but whether they can afford not to act.”
Dr. John Hamre, CSIS President and CEO, expressed gratitude for Lord Robertson’s leadership. “The FIA Foundation, which ensures safe, clean, fair, and green mobility, is a champion and we are delighted that Lord George Robertson has made this critical issue his life work,” he said.