Each year, the world suffers 1.3 million preventable deaths and an estimated 50 million injuries from road crashes. Without serious action, road crashes will cause an estimated 13–17 million more deaths and 500 million more injuries in the current decade.
UN Member States have adopted a resolution 74/299 Improving Global Road Safetyand the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (target 3.6) and are therefore mandated to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030. We know what works to achieve this target: the actions needed are set out in the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030, including a holistic Safe System approach to put people at the center of road safety.
The estimated road traffic mortality rate (per 100,000 population) is 11.7 for North America, according to the Pan-American Health Organization/WHO data from 2016. Nevertheless, disparities between countries in North America are huge. While in Canada, the road traffic mortality rate in 2019 was 5.34, in the US it was 12.67.
1,745 people died in road crashes in Canada in 2020. This represents a 1% decrease in the number of deaths from 2019 and an overall 14% decrease over the 10-year period from 2011 to 2020. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the US, 38,824 people were killed in road crashes in 2020. This represents a 6.8% increase compared with 2019; over the ten-year span from 2011 to 2020, the number of road traffic fatalities increased by 19.5%. Furthermore, the US is one of only three OECD countries where road fatalities increased in 2020 when compared with the 2017–2019 average. In 2020, across North America, 63% of road traffic deaths were motor vehicle drivers, 16% were motor vehicle passengers, 17% were pedestrians, 2% were cyclists and 1% were other road users, or cases where user type was not reported.
At a national level, both Canada and the U.S. have road safety strategies based on the Safe System approach with a vision for zero fatalities and serious injuries, although the Canadian national strategy lacks specific numeric, time-bound targets. However, it is provinces/territories, states, and municipalities that are primarily responsible for implementation of road safety interventions and commitments at the national level must be converted into action on the ground.
Immediate action is needed. We must seize this window of opportunity to integrate the recommendations of the Global Plan into existing road safety strategies and plans.By doing so, we will not only save lives and empower others to save lives, but also improve public health, stimulate economic growth, and promote environmental sustainability.
Call to Action
We call on governments in North America to commit to act for people’s right to safe mobility and a 50% reduction in road deaths and injuries by 2030, through implementation of evidence-based interventions that put people at the center, protect the environment, and promote equality and inclusion, through investment in effective solutions, and involvement of civil society.
Our role and commitment
Civil society plays a significant role and can contribute expertise in the successful delivery of road safety initiatives. No single organization has the resources to undertake all road safety projects. Furthermore, because the scope of potential projects is diverse, road safety needs to be addressed by a wide range of multisectoral stakeholders. It is important to work with and support existing community initiatives as well as cooperatively develop new programs and initiatives.
We, as civil society, have a role defined in the Global Plan. We commit to play our part in advocating for and enabling people’s rights to safe mobility and achieve a 50% reduction in road deaths and injuries by 2030.
We empower people and communities. We show the reality of the roads they use and highlight the experiences of road victims and their loved ones who have been affected by crashes. We speak up on decisions that affect road safety.
We amplify data, evidence, and best practices from around the world and we collect ground-level data and evidence that show the impact of safe and unsafe roads on people and communities. We make sure that elected officials are aware of the benefits and positive impacts of community safety programs.
We keep road safety on the agenda until every person is guaranteed — through commitment and action — their right to safe mobility. We monitor progress and put a spotlight on action and inaction.
 WHO. (2018). Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565684.
 WHO & UN Regional Commissions. (2021). Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030. https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/global-plan-for-the-decade-of-action-for-road-safety-2021-2030; Job, R.F.S. (2019, January 13). Development of a Safe System Approach. Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, United States.
 United Nations General Assembly. (2020). Resolution A/74/L.86 Improving Global Road Safety. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N20/226/30/PDF/N2022630.pdf?OpenElement
 WHO & UN Regional Commissions. (2021). Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030. https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/global-plan-for-the-decade-of-action-for-road-safety-2021-2030
 For the purposes of this document, North America is defined as Canada and the U.S., and does not include Mexico.
 WHO. (n.d.). SDG Target 3.6 Road traffic injuries. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/topics/sdg-target-3_6-road-traffic-injuries
 Transport Canada. (2022 February 1). Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2020. https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/statistics-data/canadian-motor-vehicle-traffic-collision-statistics-2020
 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022). Overview of motor vehicle crashes in 2020 (Report No. DOT HS 813 266). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813266
 International Transport Forum. (2021). Road Safety Annual Report 2021. https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/irtad-road-safety-annual-report-2021.pdf
 National Center for Statistics and Analysis Information Services Team (personal communication, March 18, 2022); Transport Canada. (2022 February 1). Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2020. https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/statistics-data/canadian-motor-vehicle-traffic-collision-statistics-2020