To address the road safety crisis around the world, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2011–2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety with the adoption of resolution 64/2551 in March 2010.
“The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 aims to save lives by halting the increasing trends in road traffic deaths and injuries world-wide.”
-United Nations Road Safety Collaboration
Those searching to explain the high rate of vehicle accidents and deaths in Latin America have always pointed to poor road conditions as the cause. However, based on my experience, I can confirm that this is not the case. In the past 20 years, I have traveled extensively through Latin America and observed first-hand the major investments made in roads and highways to make them better and safer, and the fairly good traffic regulations in place. Statistics confirm what has not changed in most countries is general driver awareness — or responsibility and accountability.
Latin American drivers are guilty of some of the same bad and dangerous driving habits present in many other places: crossing red lights; driving when overworked/tired (especially in transportation and long haul), driving in the emergency lane on highways and trying to cut through traffic; texting while driving; not respecting signage and speed limits; or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Case Study: Road Safety Statistics in Brazil
Brazil is home to the largest vehicle base in Latin America and has an unfortunate record of road safety, as illustrated by the infographic below.
The statistics on vehicle accidents and related deaths and injuries in Brazil further illustrate the road safety crisis. Proportionally similar statistics can be found for countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, although more recent statistics are unavailable.
Figure 1: Brazil annual vehicle-related death toll.
Figure 2: Number of serious injuries from vehicle accidents in Brazil.
(source DATASUS, Brazilian Federal Government and Federal Highway Police)
Finding a Solution
A serious, long term solution is needed to address the road safety crisis in Latin America. Improving driver habits through a multi-tiered approach is key.
Fleet management, driver coaching, and community education are the answer to safer roads.
In this scenario, corporate fleet managers can implement Road Safety Programs that can have a much broader reach beyond company boundaries, and influence government to funding and implement action to change these horrifying statistics.
How the Corporate World and NGOs Can Impact Safety in Latin America
In recent years, Health, Safety and Environment (known as HSE or SHE) areas of multinational corporations have been driving the adoption of Road Safety Programs on a global scale for multiple reasons. Environmental sustainability and social responsibility are part of the modern corporate culture and the awareness strengthens corporate image, employee engagement and accountability, plus have a proven positive financial outcome.
Today, the impact and scope of vehicle telematics has extended to multiple areas and involves numerous stakeholders. Several global companies are expanding Road Safety Programs and adopting Geotab telematics as the global enabling technology focusing on safety, while making it possible to address with a comprehensive and cost effective solution multiple issues, such as fleet management, compliance, productivity and security.
Road Safety Programs benefit enormously from well-implemented telematics-based safety solutions. These programs reach out to professional drivers and corporate employees. The challenge here is to expand these practices and adoption to smaller fleets (formal or informal) and to the highly scattered independent truckers that work ad hoc or as contractors and to the citizens in general.
Instituto PARAR (parar means stop in Portuguese) is an institute that was founded in Brazil in 2011 with several aims, including:
- Drastically reducing vehicle accidents through corporate and public awareness,
- Implementing fleet management training programs and standards, including vehicle safety evaluation
- Lobbying government bodies and agencies to properly fund traffic safety programs and enforce safer vehicle standards with the automotive industry.
PARAR aggregates some 4,500 fleet managers and is expanding its reach by actively engaging corporations to embrace the vision of a safer world through safer driving and safer vehicles through conferences, in house seminars, social programs such as taking the mission to universities as a means to reaching the common driver and his family. PARAR, AIAFA (Asociación Internacional de Administradores de Flotillas de Automóviles), and NAFA (North American Fleet Management Association) are now exchanging best practices to further enhance responsible fleet management and safety in Brazil.
Several fleet management associations in Latin America focus on local, country specific agendas, but I have not found a similarly-targeted long term effort in any other LatAm country that brings together corporations, automotive companies, leasing and telematics providers, the whole ecosystem, focused on saving lives.
It is an opportunity to learn with this program and implement a similar program or eventually expand the reach PARAR to the region with chapters in Mexico and Colombia just to start with, and implement a regionally accredited standardized “Safe Fleet” certification. In other terms raise the bar in the benefit of all. Let’s make sure drivers (and all) get home safe at the end of the day.
Proposing a New Regional Latin American Safe Fleet Certification Program
Currently, there are several local certification programs for fleet managers, but our proposal here is a regional standardized certification for the fleet, such as a Safe and Environment Fleet Certification, or SEF Certified. The proposed Regional Latin American Safe Fleet Certification Program should address but not be limited to the following areas: Safety, Environment, Management, Education, Telematics, and Record-keeping.
Conclusion: A Regional Fleet Safety Standard is Needed
Organizations such as NAFA and PARAR, supported by fleet management or leasing companies and telematics providers can work together and expand the focus from certification for fleet managers to certification for entire fleets. Developing a consistent and comprehensive Latin American Fleet Certification Program can help foster safer driving and safer streets for everyone.