We spend a great deal of our lives on the road: walking to the grocery store because you ran out of bread. Jumping in an Uber to meet up with friends at the weekend. Getting a bus at dawn to beat the traffic on the way to work. Taking a drive out the city for a family vacation… Our days are filled with roads: walking, driving, cycling, commuting — yet how often do we think about roads and road safety being a social justice issue? 

Road safety isn't just something for your driving test, it actually has the ability to impact millions of lives, especially the lives of those living in low- and middle-income countries; because, as with most of the world's challenges, those most impacted by a lack of road safety are people living in poverty.

Yet road safety is seriously underfunded in most countries — with the majority of countries spending less than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) on road safety investments. 

This is one of the reasons the United Nations Road Safety Fund exists, to finance and leverage further funding for high-impact projects that increase road safety for those living in low- and middle-income countries. The Fund’s #Moments2Live4 campaign works particularly to garner support and raise awareness on social media on the importance of investing in better road safety within low- and middle-income countries. 

The campaign runs every year from November to June and has been supported by the likes of veteran Hollywood actress Michelle Yeoh; Olympic Gold medalist, Wayde van Niekerk; athletic world champion, Yohan Blake; and motorsports racing driver Mick Schumacher; with former Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) boss, Jean Todt appointed as United Nations' Secretary-General's Special Envoy for road safety. 

You can take part in the campaign by sharing a video or photos of the moments in life that inspire you to believe in the importance of safe roads everywhere. Learn more about the campaign and how you can take part here

Road safety isn't just a matter of preventing crashes — although this is a major factor that should remain highly prioritized — but it is also a matter of social justice that, if taken seriously, can help the world get on track to achieve the United Nations Global Goals that aim to bring an end to poverty once and for all. 

Among the many of the UN's 17 Global Goals — that work together to bring the systemic causes of extreme poverty to an end — there are many that relate to road safety. An obvious one is Global Goal 3, for health and well-being, which calls for the number of road deaths to be halved globally by 2030; while Goal 11 for sustainable cities and communities calls for access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport for all by 2030, with a particular focus on women, children, people with disabilities, and older people. 

But the connection between road safety and the Global Goals goes further too, with the potential to advance many of the goals, including for environment, health, human rights, employment and education, and gender equality. 

To help show why road safety is a social justice issue we should all be paying attention to, here are some very compelling facts that everyone should know about.

1. One person dies on the road every 24 seconds. 

Globally an estimated 3,700 people lose their lives every day as a result of road traffic crashes — or 1.3 million people each year. 

2. Road crashes is the main killer of young people.

Road crashes are the biggest global killer of young people, between the ages of 5 and 29 — with approximately 500 children losing their lives in crashes every day. This robs them of the chance to dream and grow, and become contributing members of society. 

3. 93% of the world’s traffic and road-related fatalities happen in low- and middle-income countries. 

This is disproportionate, bearing in mind these countries are home to approximately 60% of the world’s vehicles. Those most affected by road injuries in low- and middle-income countries are often not at the wheel, as is the case in high-income countries. They are often pedestrians, or passengers on motorized two and three-wheelers, cyclists, and passengers in buses, minibusses, and trucks.  

4. Women are 17 times more likely than men to be killed in a road crash. 

…and 47% more likely to be injured from road crashes, both according to research carried out in the US. This is despite the fact that men are more likely than women to be involved in road traffic crashes, and is largely down to cars not being designed for women's bodies

According to research, women are also particularly vulnerable to injury and fatality on unsafe roads as they are often traveling by foot or are passive passengers in the vehicle, rather than driving the vehicle themselves. 

5. Women in low- and middle-income countries face more risk of road traffic incidents than women in high-income countries. 

Not only is road safety a gender equity issue, it’s a financial equity issue too, with women in low-income countries being more at risk. This is because women in low- and middle-income countries are more likely to be passengers or pedestrians, and therefore more exposed to danger, as compared to women in high-income countries. 

6. Road traffic crashes costs most countries 3% of their gross domestic product.

Meaning that a good chunk of a country’s budget that could be used on other essential issues is instead spent on road crashes. 

7. Road crashes pull essential health care resources away from communities that need them most. 

This is particularly harmful in low-income communities that have limited access to health care resources as well as experiencing other severe health issues, including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

8. Africa has the highest rates of road traffic fatalities in the world. 

This is largely because road safety is not made a priority in the lower-income regions of the African continent. 

9. The transport sector is responsible for an estimated 23% of all energy-related carbon emissions

…and if nothing is done to put road safety first across the globe, this figure is set to increase, with the transport sector being the fastest growing source of energy-related emissions. 

Global Citizen Explains

Demand Equity

9 Shocking Facts That Show Road Safety Is a Poverty and Social Justice Issue

By Khanyi Mlaba