April 16, 2024

A Manual for Addressing Road Safety in Latin American Cities

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that deaths from road accidents exceed 1.35 million annually, and millions more people are injured.

Read more about ITDP Mexico’s work on their recent road safety manual here.

The WHO also estimates that every 24 seconds someone is killed on a road worldwide. A significant number of victims of vehicle and road accidents are concentrated in regions such as Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and South Asia, due in large part to issues of vehicle dependency, poor road design, infrastructure gaps, and a lack of traffic management policies. Risk factors associated with people’s behavior, such as driving at excess speed or under the influence of substances, are also a major challenge.

In Latin American countries in particular, 17 deaths occur per 100,000 people according to 2016 estimates, almost two times higher than the European average of deaths. And this number continues to rise due to factors such as poor intersection design and increased car usage across the region, which leads to compounding issues of unsafe roads, poor air quality, environmental harms, and overall public health concerns. Unfortunately, road safety challenges in Latin American have often been shown to impact the most vulnerable of populations, including youth and children. Beyond the health impacts, the economic costs of traffic accidents totals in the hundreds of millions of dollars every year across Latin America, according to World Bank data.

Chaotic road conditions at an intersection in a busy neighborhood of Mexico City demonstrates the need for improved traffic management strategies.

Key solutions to addressing road safety at the systems level includes more comprehensive approaches to improving speed management, complete street infrastructure, parking policy reform, and more public awareness. ITDP has long been working on such issues worldwide and within the Latin American context. As cities in the region continue to grow rapidly, we know that it is essential to improve urban access to sustainable mobility networks, public transport systems, and transit-oriented development to improve livability and, ultimately, save lives.

To promote a more preventive safe streets approach, ITDP Mexico and the Costa Rican Road Safety Council (COSEVI), with the support of the FIA ​​Foundation and the Automobile Club of Costa Rica (ACCR), released the Road Conflict Observation Manual (Manual de Observación de Conflictos Viales) this year to offer a detailed framework for the prevention of traffic accidents across Latin America’s cities. This Manual aims to be a helpful, educational, and adaptable tool that helps planners and policymakers understand the challenges to, and opportunities for, improving road safety measures in a unique regional context.

Beyond the roads themselves, the Manual encourages cities to design safer spaces for all people, especially for the most exposed users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Strategically integrating the needs of students, families, and young people as they travel to and from school is also a critical strategy that can help improve safety and the urban experience for all communities. The Manual draws on a Swedish-based technique of Road Conflict Analysis and applies it within the Latin American context. This methodology was utilized by ITDP for the first time in the City of Puebla de Zaragoza and in Mexico City to help inform the case studies in the Manual.

The Road Conflict Analysis methodology presents a key opportunity to develop more comparable data on the causes and impacts of traffic accidents in Latin America. It also helps guide cities in evaluating the level of success of an intervention in favor of the most vulnerable road users. The Manual can be useful to decision-makers, transport advocates, and safety specialists seeking to improve mobility and road safety measures across the board in Latin America.

Children enjoy outdoor activities in Sao Paulo
Children and students are often some of the most vulnerable groups to traffic accidents in Latin American cities.

The Manual is divided into five  sections for the observation and analysis of road conflicts in Latin American cities:

  1. Context for Road Safety in Latin America and the Caribbean
  2. Conceptual References on Road Accidents, the Hierarchy of Sustainable Urban Mobility, and Vulnerability of Road Users
  3. Background on the Road Conflict Analysis Methodology and its Origins
  4. A Step-by-Step Methodology for Implementation
  5. Application Case Studies in Mexico and Costa Rica

Download the full “Road Conflict Observation Manual” in Spanish.


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