By Lea Pachta

A new package of funding to make roads safer and improve driving skills in some of the world’s poorest countries was announced today by the UK government. Currently one person dies on the road every 30 seconds in developing countries.

The funding will also improve road design, provide pedestrian crossings, and help to make dangerous junctions safer by adding road markings and more early warning signs.

Road accidents are now a bigger cause of death than malaria in developing countries. Over 3,000 people die every day and this figure could nearly double by 2020 due to an increase in road building and a growing number of faster cars appearing every day.

The Department for International Development (DFID) will give the £1.5m to efforts to save an estimated five million lives and avoid 500 million serious injuries over the coming decade by analysing accident blackspots, increasing seatbelt use, adding traffic calming measures and training drivers.

The funding, announced today at the first ever ministerial meeting on global road safety, will be given over three years to the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, which is worth over £10 million. The fund is a joint partnership between the UK’s Department for International Development, the World Bank, the International Automobile Foundation (FIA) and the Swedish, Dutch and Australian governments.

As one of the core donors in the partnership, the UK can use its expertise in this area to advise the programmes it sponsors around the world.

Minister for Development Gareth Thomas said:

“It is shocking to know that statistically, two of the most dangerous things that people in developing countries do in their daily lives is travel on or cross the road.

“I want to see this funding make a real impact on reducing casualty numbers where it’s needed most. It will help with implementing basic safety measures such as increased seatbelt use, improved road markings, driver and police training, and more traffic lights in some of the world’s poorest countries.

“Statistics show that the UK has some of the safest roads in the world. We must use our expertise to help developing countries meet the safety standards that we take for granted.”

Minister for Transport Paul Clark today said:

“The safety of Britain’s roads has improved significantly in recent years. We’ve cut the number of deaths and serious injuries by 40% since the mid-1990s — that’s more than 19,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries on our roads in a year and means Britain now has the joint safest roads in the world.

“But with this achievement comes a responsibility. By investing in road safety not just in Britain but around the world, and by sharing what we have learnt, I hope we can help other countries to cut the terrible toll of deaths on the roads.”

The Department for International Development has already provided £3.5M for research on improving the design and quality of transport in Africa and Asia.

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