Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety visits India to Advocate for Urgent Action

13 October 2023

16 October 2023 – The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, is gearing up for a crucial mission to India, where road safety challenges persist at alarming rates. According to the WHO, one of every 10 road deaths globally occurs in India. The visit, scheduled from 16-20 October, aims to address the pressing concerns and advocate for evidence-based interventions, drawing attention to the urgent need for substantial improvements in road safety, through both the private and public sectors.

Challenges and cost of inaction

India records a staggering 150,000 road traffic fatalities annually, contributing significantly to the global toll. This is more than 400 deaths every day or nearly 20 every hour. The WHO estimates that these numbers could be as high as 300,000 road deaths per year. In Southern-East Asia, the road traffic fatality rate stands at 20.7 per 100,000 population, more than twice the European average of 9.3/100,000 population, emphasizing the urgency of focused action. The Indian government has made important steps, including implementing the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act 2019, and enhancing data collection through Integrated Road Accidents projects.

India is witnessing a rapid increase in motorization, with two and three-wheelers constituting 73% of total registered vehicles. Vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of two-wheelers, account for 71% of all road traffic deaths in India. Focusing on their safety is paramount in reducing fatalities.

Beyond human loss, road crashes impose a significant economic burden. In India, the annual economic cost of road traffic crashes is estimated at 5 to 7 % of GDP. South Asian countries face similar economic challenges, indicating the need for strategic investments in road safety measures.

UN Special Envoy’s Call to Action

The Special Envoy’s visit underscores the critical importance of immediate, evidence-based interventions to save lives and reduce the economic impact of road traffic crashes in India and South Asia. He will meet with officials from both the government and the private sector – such as Sanofi and Tata Group – to raise the visibility and commitment to the cause. Priority areas include enforcing seatbelt and helmet usage, reducing speeding, enhancing road infrastructure, and investing in public awareness campaigns to foster behavioral changes.

“In India and South Asia, the road safety challenge is not just a statistic; it’s a pressing reality affecting families, communities, and economies. With road traffic fatalities taking an alarming toll, it’s imperative that we act swiftly and decisively,” said the Special Envoy, Jean Todt. “By enforcing seatbelt and helmet usage, reducing speeding, enhancing road infrastructure, and investing in safe public transportation, we can save lives and alleviate the economic burden caused by road crashes.”