Road traffic crashes account for 1.35 million deaths worldwide and are the single leading cause of death for people ages 5 to 29 globally. Road safety is not just a transportation issue–it’s a preventable public health crisis that must be addressed.
Speeding is a major risk factor for road traffic crashes. Speed increases are directly related to both the risk of crashes and the severity of consequences—an increase in average speed of just 1 km/h increases the likelihood of a fatal crash by 4-5%.
This year’s UN Global Road Safety Week calls for leaders to establish and enforce a 30km/h or 20 mph speed limit in areas where people, cyclists and vehicles mix. Vital Strategies works in collaboration with government partners, through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety and the Partnership for Healthy Cities, to implement proven road safety interventions, including mass media campaigns paired with enhanced enforcement measures to change risky road user behavior like speeding. These campaigns build support for public adherence to speed limits implemented to save lives.
We’ve compiled 5 of our most compelling speeding campaigns to highlight the urgent need for adherence to speed limits and to encourage public health professionals and policymakers to implement and enforce best practice speed limits. Progress on road safety is possible in every country; reducing speeding can allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy safe and livable streets.
“Schoolgirl,” Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The city of Addis Ababa and Vital Strategies launched the mass media campaign “Schoolgirl” in 2017, which conveys the importance of obeying the posted speed limit by showing the consequences of speeding. Depicted in the campaign, a young schoolgirl is hit by a speeding driver and experiences life-threatening injuries. The campaign illustrates how lower speeds can prevent crashes and reduce the severity of injury if a crash does occur. “Schoolgirl” aired in rotation with a PSA amplifying speeding enforcement. This campaign was later adapted and used in Accra, Ghana.
“Dreams,” Bogotá, Colombia
In Bogotá, children and the elderly are most vulnerable to traffic injuries and death, accounting for nearly half of pedestrians killed in the city in 2017.
As part of a multi-year, comprehensive speed management plan, the Secretary of Mobility launched the “Dreams” campaign in 2018. Pictured in the campaign, a young girl, who dreams to one day become a pilot, is suddenly hit by a speeding driver while crossing the street with her grandfather.
“Together we can help fight COVID,” Fortaleza, Brazil
During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, vehicle speeds rose in many places, including Brazil, despite reduced driving overall. As the health system in Brazil became overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, the city of Fortaleza launched the campaign “Together we can help fight COVID,” to help build social cohesion and urge people to slow down to prevent crashes and leave more space in hospitals for COVID-19 patients.
“Social Experiment,” Bangkok, Thailand
More than 20,000 lives are lost on Thailand’s roads each year–ranking among the top 10 traffic fatality rates in the world.
Road traffic crashes can occur within moments, but can harm families for the rest of their lives. As part of Bangkok’s speed management strategy, which included the introduction of speed cameras and reduced speed limits in 2017, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration created a social experiment video to raise concern about speeding. The video shows individuals driving on a busy residential street at various speeds. Individuals who are driving above 30 km/hr are seen crashing into a cutout of a young child, depicting the potential real-life consequences of increased speed. While, those driving at 30 km/hr—the recommended speed limit for these areas—are able to quickly stop and prevent a potential road crash.
This video was later successfully replicated in Bogotá and Addis Ababa.
“Not an Accident,” Quito, Ecuador
In Ecuador, WHO estimates that 3,940 people lose their lives on the country’s roads every year. In Quito, 60% of those who die in traffic are between the ages of 20-49.
In the months preceding speed limit reductions and enforcement, the city of Quito launched a campaign that shows a young girl, Daniela, crossing the street, where she is then hit by a speeding driver. The campaign portrays the grave outcomes of road crashes, they take away a person’s opportunities, experiences and future potential.
The campaign also emphasizes that road traffic crashes are not accidents, but systematic public health problems that can be solved through interventions like reduced speeding.
Today, 3,700 people will die on the world’s roads from preventable traffic crashes. There is no time to waste. Communication campaigns, like those above, can encourage people to drive slower and make streets safer and livable for all users. Progress is possible with the right interventions; in Bogotá, since 2015, the percentage of drivers exceeding speed limits has dropped from 39% to 21%. In Fortaleza, road safety interventions like setting best-practice speed limits depending on road type, in conjunction with communication and enforcement measures have allowed the city to meet the 2020 U.N. goal to reduce road traffic fatalities by 50%. Since 2014, the city has saved 578 lives, serving as a model for other cities and communities.
Governments and policymakers must bring attention to the magnitude of the traffic crash crisis. Strategies are available to prevent these unnecessary deaths, including communication campaigns to increase public awareness of the dangers of speeding and persuade drivers to abide by the limits. Everyone deserves safe streets, and everyone, everywhere must have access to them.
Campaigns developed with Vital Strategies’ support can be viewed here, and are available for adaptation and use.
To learn more about Vital Strategies road safety work visit: https://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/road-safety/ and follow us on Twitter @VitalStrat