A new report titled “Vision Zero: The journey to safer roads in the Middle East” by Strategy& Middle East and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) highlights the potential for countries in the GCC to save thousands of lives each year and enhance economic growth by achieving important global road safety performance targets.
The analysis emphasizes the potential social and economic advantages that can be gained if the GCC countries successfully accomplish even one of the 12 road safety targets outlined in the UN General Assembly’s Decade of Action for Road Safety resolution. By attaining Target 4, which involves ensuring that 75 percent of travel occurs on roads meeting recommended technical standards that prioritize safety for all road users, the GCC countries could potentially save 2,800 lives annually, resulting in a reduction of approximately 22 percent. Additionally, this achievement could contribute to economic growth amounting to around $250 billion over a 20-year period. These advancements would mark significant progress towards the realization of “Vision Zero,” which aims to eliminate road fatalities and severe injuries.
President of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem commented saying, “Safety treatments are essential for the development of the GCC countries. The impact of crashes on families, communities, livelihoods, and national economies is significant. However, through the implementation of readily available technologies and a concerted effort across policy and infrastructure development, GCC countries can make a real difference in saving lives. This report will create a framework for our Member Clubs in the region to support governments in their journey towards a safer mobility.”
“GCC countries are already making significant progress in improving road safety, but incidents and fatalities in the region remain higher than in many other parts of the world,” said Hicham Fadel, partner with Strategy& Middle East. “By shifting the majority of GCC road travel to safer roads, pressure on healthcare systems can be alleviated, and economic productivity can be safeguarded against the economic cost of injuries and fatalities,” he added.
“Efforts to meet ambitious targets aimed at reducing fatalities and serious traffic injuries are already underway around the region. To get there, the FIA and Strategy& have developed a comprehensive roadmap encompassing five key pillars for policymakers, planners and stakeholders to improve road safety and save lives,” said Gustave Cordahi, principal with Strategy& Middle East.
Comprehensive road safety strategy
The path for GCC countries to improve their traffic safety record is a comprehensive road safety strategy that is informed by data and enabled by technology. It requires action in five areas:
- Improved infrastructure. Integrating safety standards into road design and operation has a significant impact on reducing fatalities and serious injuries. Professionals such as designers, urban planners, and construction companies play a crucial role in improving road designs prior to construction or upgrades. They can also take advantage of emerging technologies like “smart” speed bumps that adjust their characteristics based on vehicle speed. Additionally, AI technologies offer valuable assistance to monitor road conditions, predict maintenance needs, and prioritize repair efforts. Saudi Arabia serves as an example, as it has already initiated pilot programs utilizing AI-powered solutions across various applications.
- Smart vehicles. The development of smarter vehicles involves retrofitting existing vehicles with new technologies, implementing more frequent vehicle inspections, and integrating advanced in-vehicle technologies to enhance passenger protection. Car safety rating systems are already established as international standards, providing a framework for assessing vehicle safety. Furthermore, emerging vehicle-based technologies, including connectivity, automotive telematics, and automation, have the potential to further improve safety on the roads.
- Empowered commuters. Having access to real-time information on road conditions and traffic patterns can play a crucial role in maintaining hazard awareness and enabling drivers to make informed decisions. Various tools such as dynamic message signs, speed indicator displays, and alerts delivered through in-vehicle units and personal devices can all contribute to empowering commuters. Likewise, implementing modifications to pedestrian crossings and establishing designated bike lanes can enhance the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
- Efficient operations. Incorporating advanced technologies like smart traffic lights and adaptive signal lengths, which are informed by real-time data, can greatly contribute to intelligent traffic management and incident response. Similarly, dynamic speed regulation systems have the ability to adjust speed limits based on real-time traffic, road, and weather conditions, enabling vehicles to operate at optimal speeds. Additionally, emerging technological tools, such as AI-enabled incident prediction and detection systems, have the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to identify and respond to incidents on the road.
- Robust enforcement. Several countries in the MENA region have already implemented advanced traffic safety programs, with Saudi Arabia’s program utilizing edge computing for traffic law enforcement. With the advent of new technologies, it is now possible to automatically capture the most serious traffic offenses, such as failure to wear seatbelts, using mobile phones while driving, speeding, running red lights, and engaging in illegal lane-switching and U-turns. To apprehend offenders, road systems can employ radar monitoring, drones, smart patrol vehicles, as well as handheld and vehicle-mounted cameras to detect violations. The use of AI-enabled CCTV cameras, capable of running computer vision algorithms to identify various types of violations, is becoming increasingly cost-effective.
Successful traffic safety plans
Furthermore, according to the paper, considerable advancements have been achieved in various GCC countries, leading to the development of comprehensive traffic safety plans. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, there was a notable 6.8 percent reduction in road traffic incidents in 2022 compared to the previous year, accompanied by a 2.1 percent decline in road fatalities during the same period. Similarly, Dubai in the UAE introduced 53 strategic initiatives across four essential categories: traffic control, vehicle and highway engineering, traffic awareness, and systems and management. The findings of this report provide valuable insights to further propel and enhance these ongoing efforts.
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