UN launches global road safety campaign in US with goal of halving the number of victims by 2030

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations on Monday launched its global road safety campaign in the United States, which aims to halve the number of road-related victims worldwide by 2030.

The two-year advertising campaign seeks to educate people on basic, but life-saving, safety measures, such as wearing seatbelts and helmets and putting away phones on the road, U.N. Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt told a news conference opening the U.S. campaign.

The advertisements will appear on JCDecaux billboards in more than 80 countries and 1,000 cities, including New York City, Chicago, and Boston starting Monday, said Jean-Luc Decaux, president and co-CEO of JCDecaux North America..

He said the campaign underscores how the media’s reach can “raise awareness to save lives and further the message of international road safety.”

The #MakeASafetyStatement campaign is part of the U.N. New Decade of Action for Road Safety, which launched in 2021. More than one million people die in road-related fatalities annually, over 90% of which occur in developing countries, according to the United Nations.

“Unfortunately, (in) a lot of countries mainly in Africa, and in some countries in Asia, in Latin America, the figures are worsening,” U.N. envoy Todt said. “That is why we need to work together with the government, together with the private sector to kind of wake up to what I call a silent pandemic.”

According to the U.N., road crashes are the second-leading cause of accidental death in the United States, after firearms. But many of these deaths are preventable.

The Word Health Organization estimates that the U.S. fatality rate more than doubles that of Europe.

In 2014, New York City launched the traffic safety program Vision Zero to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the road. It has built hundreds of miles of bike lanes, installed automated speed cameras, and established school speed zones. according to the city’s Commissioner for International Affairs Edward Mermelstein.

From 2013 to 2023, traffic deaths decreased by 12% and pedestrian deaths decreased by 45%, he said, though road dangers persist.

“We are still one of the — if not the safest city with respect to vehicle problems that have taken place both with bicycles and cars,” Mermelstein said. “We will do better, and with the help of the United Nations and our partners at JCDecaux, I think this is a great start.”

The JCDecaux campaign launched in Brussels, Belgium in September and has since displayed road safety advertisements in Mongolia and South Africa. The advertisements feature 14 international celebrities, including U.N. Development Program goodwill ambassador Michelle Yeoh, tennis player Novak Djokovic, and singer Kylie Minogue.

Decaux said his company may continue its partnership with the U.N. on road safety awareness beyond the two-year campaign.