Given its prominence as a leading cause of death and injury worldwide, road injury prevention remains significantly underfunded. The scale of commitments made by multilateral and bilateral providers of Official Development Assistance remains modest. Contributions from major philanthropies also remains limited apart from the notable exceptions of the FIA Foundation57 and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Contributions by the Private sector are important but also limited in scope. As a result, the total annual grant funding for road safety only ranges in the hundreds of millions of dollars leaving a significant funding gap58.
The weak level of funding is partly an unfortunate legacy of road injury prevention not being included in the UN’s framework of MDGs from 2000 to 2015. Over this period, both bilateral and multilateral donors orientated their development assistance efforts in support of the MDGs and investment in road safety suffered, even though injuries in traffic crashes are estimated to rank eighth in the leading causes of death worldwide59. Now that road safety is included in the SDGs, there should no longer be any impediment to scaling up official development assistance (ODA) for road injury prevention. Yet, there still seems to be reluctance by donors to respond and a tendency to overlook the issue. For example, the outcome of the Third International Conference on Financingfor Development held in Addis Ababa in July 2015 did not acknowledge road safety at all even whilst calling for greater transport infrastructure investment60.
For a region like Africa, this oversight is disturbing. Africa has the highest per capita level of road fatalities, with vulnerable road users accounting for 50% of those affected. To prevent this tragic deterioration in Africa’s road safety further donor investment will be required. More support is needed for initiatives such as the World Bank’s Sub-Saharan African Transport Programme (which has developed guidelines to mainstream road safety into regional trade road corridors and for the creation of national lead agencies)61 and for community based projects like Amend’s work promoting Safe Routes to School.
The SDGs now provide a unique opportunity for road injury prevention to be mainstreamed across ODA programmes for health, transport and good governance in Africa and elsewhere. The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, should take a lead in encouraging the major bilateral donors to recognize road safety as a cross cutting issue that can significantly contribute to the overall objective of sustainable development. In 2016, the UN General Assembly supported the creation of a “Road Safety Trust Fund, to support the implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action and the road safety related Sustainable Development Goals”. In response, the UNECE has proposed the
establishment of a UN Road Safety Fund with an annual grant capacity of $770 million62. With catalytic resources on this scale it is estimated that over a ten-year period the Fund could leverage an additional $262 billion for road safety investment to achieve SDGs 3.6 and 11.2 in low and middle-income countries, save 5 million lives and avert 50 million serious injuries63. It is hoped that bilateral donors, philanthropies and the private sector will contribute generously to the proposed Fund.
Another potential source could be an innovative funding mechanism led by the automotive sector. In 2011, the Commission for Global Road Safetyproposed that industry establish a voluntary levy on their customers of $2 per new vehicle64. If this was applied by all manufacturers worldwide to all motor vehicles sold in 2016 (amounting to nearly 94 million units) it could raise up to $188 million per year. This idea has now been taken up by the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, and the FIA High Level Panel for Road Safety that he chairs. His support for such an initiative is very much welcomed as an innovative funding mechanism by the automobile industry and could significantly contribute to the proposed Road Safety Trust Fund once it is finally established.
A significant challenge for all UN Member States, and especially low and middle income countries, is how to generate adequate internal resources to maintain long term investment in road safety. Without secure and stable funding, it is hard to sustain the policies necessary to achieve lasting reductions in casualty levels. Finance is needed for a wide range of interventions including road engineering and maintenance, road traffic policing and enforcement, driver and vehicle licensing, emergency and hospital services and to maintain a coordinating lead agency with reliable data sources. There are, however, a variety of funding sources that can be mobilised including from general tax revenues, earmarked taxes (such as fines from traffic offences), road funds supported by user charges, insurance levies, social impact bonds, and through partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
Currently, not enough is being done to help low and middle income countries develop their own road safety funding mechanisms. There is a clear role here for the World Bank and the other MDBs. Their capacity for high level policy dialogue with client countries means that they are well placed to take a lead in providing guidance on internal resource generation for road safety. Critically, they should be powerfully making the case that investing in road safety delivers very strong rates of return. For example, iRAP has shown that an additional investment of US$681 billion (less than 0.1% of global GDP per year for ten years) could prevent an estimated 40 million deaths and serious injuries over 20 years with a return on investment of eight dollars for every dollar invested65. The business case for road injury prevention is compelling, especially when following Safe System principles. This is because when safety is built into road infrastructure from the outset, money will be saved over the longer term. Losses will be avoided in health and social care, and transport systems will avoid the need for costly retrofitting of remedial measures that would otherwise be needed.