Good governance is a prerequisite of effective road injury prevention, and it is not hard to see why this should be so. The hallmarks of good governance are accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, cost effectiveness, and promotion of the rule of law. All these characteristics are necessary attributes for successful implementation of the Safe System approach to road injury prevention.
Success in road injury prevention takes years of patient application of effective policy measures delivered through multi-sector collaboration which involves different government departments, agencies, interacting with civil society and the private sector. This requires a partnership approach in which all relevant stakeholders recognise their role and responsibility to sustain a safe mobility system. To sustain such a partnership requires a shared commitment that can only be built on trust and cooperation to achieve common goals. This only happens when national road safety plans are based on reliable data and surveillance systems that can provide the evidence to support measures that are applied consistently and transparently. As was stated earlier, when road injury is measured properly, its prevention will be managed more effectively and, if what is measured is also shared with the public, it is more likely to obtain community support.
Principles of good governance have wide application to road safety policies for road users, vehicles and roads. Strong enforcement, for example, is essential in tackling the key risk factors of inappropriate speed, impaired driving, use of helmets and seat belts. And the effectiveness of enforcement depends crucially on its credibility and consistency with the rule of law. According to Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index, many lower-ranked countries in their survey are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary. Unfortunately, in too many countries, road traffic police suffer from such corruption issues, prompted by poor employment conditions and lack of training which undermine both public trust and effective enforcement of traffic rules.
Similar issues arise with driver and vehicle licensing and roadworthiness systems. These are important as they represent entry points for both users and vehicles into the road network that can positively influence safety outcomes only when working efficiently. For example, the deterrent effects of loss of a driving licence become redundant if they can be obtained corruptly or if penalties can be avoided through bribes. The same risk occurs if vehicles are approved for sale even when they fail to meet regulatory requirements or periodical inspection and when maintenance systems are not properly enforced.
Good governance also has a major role to play in the design, construction and management of road infrastructure projects. Transparency International estimates that mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption range from 10% to 30% of infrastructure project values. Such losses occurring in road construction limit the potential of safety assessment and audits to improve design and reduce resources for road safety related engineering. The transparency and reliability of basic road traffic data collection systems is another test for the quality of governance of public authorities. If levels and types of road injury are not measured accurately then it is very hard to develop effective policies to reduce them.
There is great potential, however, to promote good governance as an integral part of road injury prevention. In the area of police enforcement, for example, there are opportunities to improve the quality of road traffic policing by sharing good practice, providing training, the introduction of new technologies, and improvements and reform of enforcement systems. A project in Moldova, for example, led to a wholesale reorganisation of road policing and simple measures to promote transparency and tackle petty corruption, such as requiring that police officers wear easily identifiable name tags. The Government of Moldova requested an exchange programme involving experts from Georgia and the UK, organised by EASST with support from the World Bank47. A critical factor in the success of the project was taking good practice from another East European country –ensuring that lessons were understood and transferable – as well as a country with more developed systems for road policing.
In recent years, the UN, the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and some key bilateral donors have become increasingly interested in good governance as a development issue and have committed significant resources to this programme area. The World Bank, for example, has committed 10% of its lending, amounting to $6.0 billion to improve accountability of public institutions and rule of law. In the Infrastructure sector, the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) is an important example of how transparency can help to inform and empower citizens, enabling them to hold decision-makers to account48. CoST promotes transparency by disclosing data from public infrastructure investment. Informed citizens and responsive public institutions can then lead to the introduction of reforms that will reduce mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption and the risks posed to the public from poor infrastructure.
In supporting the SDG road safety goals, therefore, it would make sense for the donor community to include road safety projects within the scope of their wider programmes of investment in good governance. Likewise,Parliamentarians, both in exercising their oversight responsibilities of public authorities and in representing local communities, can champion the practical application of good governance principles to their countries road injury prevention policies. If they do so they will find road safety can quickly deliver tangible evidence of the power of good governance to ordinary citizens by saving their lives and avoiding injury.