About the Author: Nancy Carter-Foster serves as Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
The Russian Federation hosted the very successful First Ministerial Conference on Global Road Safety, November 19-20 in Moscow. Topped of with a speech by President Medvedev, who cited road safety as a major health threat to his nation, and called for halfing mortality and morbidity from road crashes as a national priority.
Although it was cold outside, inside the hall a fire was lit by the determination of enthusiastic participants calling for greater collaboration and concerted international action to address the full gamut of global road safety issues. In presentation after presentation, Ministers of Transport, Health, Eduation and Directors of Road Safety Programs in nation after nation discussed the current conditions of traffic safety or lack thereof plaguing road users. Although most nations discussed situations posed by increasing numbers of motorcycles and other competing road users, there was also a threat posed by increasing numbers of four-wheel motorized vehicles on roads throughout the developed and developing world. Infrastructure, road design, competing road users and other challenges to road safety were continually cited as major road safety problems along with issues of behavior such as drink driving, speed and lack of seat belt use. Everyone cited road safety as a growing global health challenge, which is being under-estimated and inadequately addressed across-the-board by nations around the world.
Secretary Ray LaHood, who headed the U.S. delegation, also raised the problem of distracted driving, especially texting while driving as an issue which merits greater global attention and action to curb the threat it poses and portends as more cars and cell phones take to the roads competing for drivers' attention while in motion. He called for a report on the issue, which was well-received by the conference attendees.
At the conclusion of the conference the Ministers, government officials, NGO representatives, Youth Group representatives, business leaders and others agreed on a Moscow Declaration which will be subsumed into a General Assembly Resolution for the March session of the UN General Assembly. The Declaration called for support of a call for a Decade of Action from 2011-2020, for greater international collabortion and cooperation in support of increased global road safety and significantly reducing the number of lives lost due to road crashes. The Declaration was adopted by concensus.