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The official magazine of United Nations

international civil servants in Geneva

Remembering Victims on the Roads in the time of COVID-19
5 Nov 2020

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

The year 2020 has seen unprecedented events. The COVID-19 crisis has brought grief and financial difficulties to many, and tremendous changes to the daily lives of us all. 

But it is during these times of great uncertainty that opportunities often arise. New challenges could be addressed, ambitious objectives could be strongly recalled such as a world where every citizen has access to safe, affordable and sustainable mobility, where every child can have a safe journey to and from school.

Jean Todt

November is always a stark reminder of how far we must go to achieve this ultimate (and necessary) vision.

On the third Sunday of this month, we gather in silence to remember the 1.4 million lives lost and the 50 million more injured with life-sustaining disabilities each year on the roads; we stand in solidarity with families who mourn the loss of their beloved; we support those who are now life-long caretakers of their injured loved ones.

It is tempting for me to compare the devastation of COVID-19 to that faced on the road every year.  However, we saw something interesting happening for mobility during the pandemic. COVID-19 set an impetus on more active mobility: more walking and cycling in effort to enable social distancing measures.

The urgent need for these active modes of mobility has increased and quickened some governments’ investments in their regard, in both developed and developing nations, including here in Geneva.

“COVID-19 has reminded us to revalue human life, where one preventable death is too many and it is thus, unacceptable.”

This is exactly what we need to achieve our ultimate vision of safe, affordable and sustainable mobility. Furthermore, during peak lock down periods, road traffic deaths halved in some countries, showcasing that when simple rules are followed and when traffic volumes are contained, we can save lives.

Jean Todt

Two pandemics, COVID-19 and road traffic injuries converge to teach us a lesson. We could and we should take this brave chance to rebuild our cities, our communities and our transport systems for more resiliency: both in terms of the safety and environmental related Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in our preparedness for future outbreaks of the like.

In August 2020, even amid a global health crisis, Member States adopted, arguably, one of the strongest UN General Assembly Resolutions on improving global road safety. It puts sustainable mobility high on the agenda, while announcing a second Decade of Action for Road Safety with a new target to halve road deaths and injuries between 2021-2030. A big step forward and a tribute to all the lives affected by road crashes.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims falls on Sunday, 15 November 2020.

I hope you will join me in remembering those who have suffered from the carnage on our roads and in committing to doing your part to make it safe. Join the movement: https://worlddayofremembrance.org/.

* Jean Todt is UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety.
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