Over one million road traffic fatalities could be avoided each year with a systemic approach to road safety. WRI and partners helped city and state governments adopt comprehensive road safety plans and regulations to reduce vehicle speed and improve road design, saving lives by making streets less car-centric and safer for all road users, especially the most vulnerable: pedestrians, cyclists and other micro-mobility users.

The Challenge

Traffic accidents claim some 1.3 million lives each year, including many of the most vulnerable road users, and most are in the developing world. India, for example, has just 1% of the world’s vehicles but suffers 10% of the world’s traffic deaths. WRI research highlights cost-effective ways to make roads safer for all users, including reducing vehicle speeds, the fastest but most politically contentious way to save lives.

WRI’s Role

WRI drew on years of work on urban mobility and research and guidance on a street design-oriented approach to road safety through Cities Safer by Design and a “Safe System” or “Vision Zero” approach through Sustainable and Safe: A Vision and Guidance for Zero Road Deaths. With local and international partners, WRI engaged with many cities to address fatalities from high vehicle speeds, seeing outstanding efforts in Accra, Addis Ababa, Bangkok and Bogotá and the Mexican state of Colima. WRI and partners adapted international best practice to provide locally appropriate technical and policy guidance on speed limits, changes to street design such as speed humps, narrowed lanes and raised crossings, enforcement and regulatory mechanisms, and data analysis to select locations for intervention and to monitor results.

In India, WRI worked with the state of Haryana to launch the Haryana Vision Zero Program in 2017 to bring an evidence-based approach to reducing road crashes, working with local civil society organizations, universities, and businesses. Starting in 10 districts, WRI helped identify the deadliest stretches of roads, proposed improved road design and traffic management practices, and trained municipal engineers to do the same. By understanding the true cost of road crashes, the government came to view road safety not just as an engineering or enforcement issue, but as a health and economic issue.

The Outcome

In 2019, the cities of Accra, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, and Bogotá, and the Mexican state of Colima adopted new speed-reduction plans and regulations, enforcement processes and in some cases new street designs. Colima’s new Road Safety Code provides state-wide vehicle speed standards and enforcement authority. These actions not only save lives but offer evidence for other cities.

In India, the Haryana Vision Zero program saved an estimated 400 lives state-wide in one year. Punjab has begun piloting the program and other Indian states are seeking to follow. Together, these programs could save thousands of lives and reduce associated health and economic costs for 53 million people. These efforts are in line with an increased emphasis on safety for all road users in India’s strengthened Motor Vehicles Act of 2019, on which WRI engaged since 2014 and which aims to cut traffic fatalities in half by 2030.