Safe roads enable a health environment

On 28 July 2022, the UN General Assembly declared access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of all global deaths, roughly 13.7 million deaths a year, are linked to the environment due to risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure.

What does this mean for road safety? It is a significant opportunity to emphasize the necessity of safe roads which are an enabler for creating a sustainable environment. As the road safety community, we have been advocating for safe and sustainable transport for all. By creating safer roads, we support the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. 

Several specific interventions that NGOs are calling for in the NGO Call to Action can easily be linked to enabling the right to a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment including 30 km/h limits on streets and developing infrastructure that supports active mobility. The Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030 (Global Plan) also recommends a safe system approach. This approach facilitates a mix of motorized and non-motorized transport modes to ensure safety and equitable access to mobility, while responding to the diverse needs and preferences of a population. It supports the establishment of sidewalks, bike lanes and traffic calming which enable walking and cycling safely.

The declaration of a new universal human right points to how safe mobility could also one day be formally recognized as a right. The Alliance has been calling for this since 2020. The Alliance’s report The Day Our World Crumbled: The Human Cost of Inaction on Road Safety, based on the survey responses of 5,606 people from around the world, recommends that safe mobility be treated as a human and constitutional right, a safe system approach is adopted and road systems be designed to be and to feel safe for road users. Additionally, through the #CommitToAct campaign under the slogan “Our roads, our right” / “Safety is our right”, NGOs emphasize the Global Plan’s recommendation which says that placing safety at the core of our road safety efforts will automatically make safe mobility a human right.

Increasingly, we are hearing safe mobility referred to as a right, including in the opening of the High-level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety in June 2022, when Abdulla Shahid, the President of the 76th General Assembly said that safe mobility is a right of every human being. The implementation of the Global Plan; whose goal is to halve road traffic deaths by 2030; will pave the way for safe mobility to be declared as a human right in a similar way.