The Commonwealth Action Series featured a sub-session on fighting the biggest killer of young people in the Commonwealth – road crashes – as part of its fourth episode on youth development: inclusive, equitable, and accessible opportunities. The session featured speakers from the road safety sector who talked about the facts surrounding road safety in Commonwealth. Members of the Coalition led a youth panel to talk about road safety and sustainable mobility in their respective countries.
Road crashes as a public health threat
The speakers during the session – Professor Agnes Binagwaho, Ph.D., M.D., Vice-Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity; Jessica Truong, the Vice President of Programs and Asia Pacific Region of Toward Zero Foundation; and Raquel Barrios, Project Manager of YOURS – Youth for Road Safety – talked about road safety as an urgent public health issue in the Commonwealth.
Agnes kicked off the session and discussed how road safety is an issue in equity, economy, sustainability, and accessibility. In her discussion, she emphasized that the burden of road crashes is huge, not only for the Countries in the Commonwealth but for the whole world.
After she emphasized how young people are the most affected when it comes to road crashes, Agnes raised the concern of how youth are less able to bear the costs associated with road-related injuries and disabilities.
In her discussion, Agnes pointed out how the GDP of the countries could reach a 3.6% increase by reducing road traffic deaths by 10%. Long term economic growth would also mean youth development through employment opportunities.
Jessica presented facts and figures that explain why road trauma is an important public health concern. In the Commonwealth, half a million people are killed because of road crashes every year. Jessica identified road crashes as “one of the biggest man-made humanitarian crises that we must address”.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals has identified road safety as a “priority action area”, strengthened by the new UN declaration of the new Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Youth leading the charge for safer roads and sustainable mobility
Raquel talked about how necessary young people are in the road safety movement. She introduced the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety, an organization that unites youth from all over the world to lead the movement toward safer roads and sustainable mobility.
“The youth coalition is providing resources, capacity development, and partnerships to young leaders around the world to promote the implementation of evidence-based local actions and innovative strategies for global advocacy that will contribute to the achievement of the global youth statement for road safety,” – Raquel Barrios.
The Commonwealth also featured a youth panel where members of the Coalition participated. The panel had Simon Patrick Obi from Nigeria as moderator and had Olivia Nalwadda from Uganda, Ami Nkumbuye from Rwanda, Grace Willems from Australia, and Alex Ayub from Kenya as panelists.
The panelists talked about the road safety situation in their respective countries. Olivia talked about how dangerous the streets of Uganda are, not only for young people but also for elders who want to enjoy activities like going out for an evening stroll.
Grace discussed how addressing road safety does not just solve issues surrounding mobility, it also helps create more sustainable cities that contribute to a better standard of living for people in the Commonwealth. “I think that finding solutions to road safety goes hand-in-hand with making progress against many other UN SDGs.”
Ami gave the audience a glimpse of how Rwanda is addressing road safety through advocacy. He talked about key interventions that have to do with promoting and raising awareness when it came to road crash statistics in their community. The promotion advocacy came in three ways; teaching sessions, mass campaigns, and conferences. Ami also raised the importance of connecting with governments and NGOs to tackle road safety so that the medical services are not overwhelmed.
Finally, Alex talked about how the Global Youth Coalition, with the help of the Global Youth Statement for Road Safety, is addressing road crashes locally and globally. He discussed how the Coalition is reaching out to young people and other authorities to implement the youth statement and combat the road crash menace.