Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President of Policy, Advocacy and Communication discusses communication and road safety efforts at the Bogotá International Road Safety Seminar
Across the globe, road crashes cause premature death and disability, with 1.35 million people dying each year with up to 50 million more left injured—more people are dying from road traffic crashes than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or diarrheal diseases. Road crashes can increase poverty, as a loss of income can be especially devastating to low-income households, and stunt economies. They also burden emergency response and healthcare systems. For all of these reasons, road safety is and should be treated as a public health issue. Governments and public health professionals have a responsibility to include road safety as part of their public health initiatives and programming.
, Senior Vice President of Policy, Advocacy and Communication joined Bogotá’s International Road Safety Seminar to share this exact message: Road Safety is a public health issue that must be combatted. The panel, part of Bogotá’s annual Road Safety Week programming, took place virtually on October 7, 2020 and also included Kelly Larson of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carlton Reid of Forbes.com, Eugenia Rodrigues of PAHO, and moderator Claudia Adriazola-Steil of the World Resource Institute.
Communication and media are one aspect of a much-needed comprehensive approach to reducing crashes and ensuring the safety of roads for all users. Sandra explained, “Communication must be strategic, evidence-based and must take into account all of the research that is available so that when we are delivering messages they are bolstered by data and epidemiology.”
Other key components of a holistic road safety approach include strengthening legislation, promoting infrastructure improvements, sustainable urban transportation and enforcement measures.
Effective communication and mass media have been proven to contribute to a reduction in road crashes. Bogotá, for example, has been an extraordinary leader in road safety. By implementing a multi-sectoral speed reduction strategy, including several mass media campaigns paired with enforcement of speed limits, the Colombian capital saved an estimated 46 lives between October 2018 and December 2019, translating to an approximate savings of 12.6 million dollars. This marked a significant return on investment and should serve as an example for governments around the world.
During the panel, Sandra shared examples of communication campaigns from Bogotá, as well as successful campaigns from Fortaleza, Brazil, which has reduced traffic crashes by about half over the last decade. As a partner in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety since 2010, Vital Strategies has worked with Bogotá, Fortaleza and other governments around the world to develop best-practice, data-driven campaigns to tackle risky road behaviors. Through these examples Sandra explained the importance of audio-visual components of a message. People tend to look at multiple screens and consume information through multiple platforms. As Sandra expressed “even young people encounter their information on multiple platforms and multiple screens, so we have to be thinking about how we integrate and synthesize our media delivery to reach as many people as possible.”
“Even young people encounter their information on multiple platforms and multiple screens, so we have to be thinking about how we integrate and synthesize our media delivery to reach as many people as possible.”
Communication and mass media are an effective and cost-efficient method to alter behavior and drive policy change. Strategic and evidenced-based communication efforts can help save lives from preventable road crashes. Governments must ensure the safety of all populations, because “Crashes are preventable, not accidental.”