Thanks to the 2030 Agenda, private companies and institutions have become fundamental social actors for achieving a fairer, more sustainable world in which road safety has become a top priority after being included among the 169 targets of the SDGs.

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In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, designed to achieve 17 goals which could be summed up in the core, transformative promise of “not leaving anyone behind”.

In this context, companies are playing a key role, due to the inclusive nature of the SDGs. In fact, the new 2030 Agenda not only targets governments and development agencies, as was the case with Agenda 21, but rather it calls for greater involvement from all actors, including civil society and the private sector. More than ever before, this is now a shared responsibility. In the light of this joint responsibility, many companies are pursuing a new balance between two factors: financial and social gain. They are “companies with a purpose”, “social enterprises”, a concept that is becoming indispensable.

Nowadays, road safety is of prime importance in the race to achieve a world that is more equitable, sustainable and responsible. This is due to the need to do away with those chilling figures we can never become accustomed to: road fatalities are currently the leading cause of death among children and young people, for all age groups between five and 29; a child is killed on the world’s roads every four minutes, which means a total of 500 children a day.

Being included among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) clearly represents a major step forward, in the view of Jesús Monclús, manager of Accident Prevention and Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE: “For the first time, road safety now forms part of the SDG at the global le vel. And this is essential, because it conveys to society the importance of reducing road traffic injuries.

Moreover, because it constitutes a call to action for all citizens and companies, and enables links and synergies to be established with other issues on the 2030 Agenda, such as the environment.”

Road safety is an issue that affects all of us and something we must all take action on. The most evident proof is that the 2011-2020 UN global initiative ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’, has been key to “stemming” the global tide of fatal accidents. “Without this guidance paper for all countries and the endeavors of one and all, the overall fatalities figure would be 1.9 million instead of 1.3 million,” Monclús pointed out.

Companies can promote and facilitate the prevention of traffic accidents in a number of different ways

With the aim of making companies aware of their responsibility in this area, as well as providing a quick overview of the opportunities presented in the road safety sector, Fundación MAPFRE produced an extensive, wide-ranging report: SDGs and Road Safety: a guide for organizations in the private sector. Presented at the seminar “Application of the SDG to Improving Road Safety”, it represents the first document of its kind produced exclusively with a view to helping companies and private institutions to increase their commitment to road safety by adhering to the guidelines of the 2030 Agenda.

Of invaluable assistance, bearing in mind these words from Etienne Krug, director of the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health: “At the current rate, 20 million people will die and one billion will be injured in traffic-related incidents over the next two decades, unless truly effective measures are adopted to prevent this happening.” Dr. Krug, who participated in producing this Fundación MAPFRE document, says that there is a need for “much greater political will” to ensure that countries implement “more and more effective measures” to reduce traffic accidents. “If we manage it, we’ll avoid the death and injury of many people; we’ll make it possible for people to walk around and ride a bike safely, thus ensuring greater social wellbeing,” he concluded.

It is important for us to remember what the leading causes of traffic accidents around the world are. Most noteworthy are irresponsible behavior on the part of drivers and passengers, the use of cell phones, the poor technical condition of vehicles, and the inadequate quality or maintenance of highway infrastructure and road signs. “The greatest burden is borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, who represent 54 percent of all deaths from crashes and other traffic incidents.”

The idea is to fulfill SDG target 3.6, namely to halve deaths from traffic accidents by 2020; and target 11.2 which aims to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible, sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. We already know that the first goal has not been achieved and, in fact, is now being reframed to a 2030 target date. And achieving the second goal requires the participation of private companies.

How can companies help?

Companies can promote and facilitate the prevention of traffic accidents in a number of different ways. Among them, those that produce goods or provide services with a direct impact on road safety can:

  • Produce vehicles and build roads with safety in mind.
  • Provide services to the injured that are accessible to all.
  • Behave in a responsible manner, such as refraining from marketing alcohol to young people.
  • Ensure that public transit services are safe.

All other companies can:

  • Ensure the safety of their own staff and their own fleets, in the case of heavy vehicles.
  • Support proven road safety initiatives by way of their corporate social responsibility endeavors. 
  • Participate in road safety campaigns targeting their employees, their employees’ families and the communities within which they operate.
  • Use their political influence to encourage action to be taken by national and local authorities.

Fundación MAPFRE and road safety

“While much remains to be done, the good news is that an e vergrowing number of companies are committed to road safety,” said Jesús Monclús, manager of Accident Prevention and Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE. In fact, this entity invests over six million euros each year promoting educational programs and activities in 25 countries around the world, with the aim of educating and raising awareness of the importance of road safety for preventing and reducing traffic accidents.

Several companies participated in the drafting of the report Road Safety and the SDGs, contributing their experiences in this area. Some of them, such as Gestamp, have programs for the prevention of traffic accidents, striving to reduce accident victim numbers by creating vehicle parts that absorb shocks better and are more resistant. As for Gonvarri, their Communication and Sustainability manager states, “the autonomous car is going to achieve what we humans cannot, and will deal the definitive blow to traffic accidents.” Or Mobileye, which is working on an artificial vision technology that can identify potentially hazardous situations, and warn the driver or the vehicle to take action. Or ALSA. Its Institutional Relations Manager, Ignacio Pérez-Carasa, declares: “We have learned that safety is something that we can manage. We’ve observed that most accidents are preventable and, therefore, can be avoided thanks to important preventive actions.”