Hugo Martínez McNaught
Director of Public Affairs
AXA and Spokesman for Reacciona por la Vida

Prominently Placing Road Safety on Mexico's Agenda

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 15:38

In Mexico, road traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for children aged between five and fourteen, and the number two cause of death for young people. Additionally, there are over 16,600 road related deaths every year, and a total of over 860,000 Mexicans who are living with disabilities due to these tragic, preventable accidents. These startling numbers led to the creation of Reacciona por la Vida, which is a national alliance made up of AXA Insurance and the Civil Association of Road Accident Victims (VIVIAC). This nonprofit organization was legally constituted in 2013 due to a desperate need for road accident prevention in Mexico. “We came to the conclusion that car crash victims should play an important role in putting this issue on the country’s agenda,” says Hugo Martínez McNaught, Director of Public Affairs at AXA and Spokesman for Reacciona por la vida. “We saw that in more developed countries, car crash prevention is a concern that is shared by the government and the country’s residents. Unfortunately, Mexico, as a society, does not pay the necessary attention to road safety, even though it is a tremendous problem that has massive human and economic repercussions.”

The NGO has two main strategies. The first pillar is a media strategy with the objective of increasing awareness about road safety. Reacciona por la Vida has put campaigns in place that continuously communicate the five main risk factors or five key safety behaviors present in road crashes. These include driving under the influence of alcohol, using a motor vehicle without seatbelts or child seats, distractors like mobile phones, the lack of helmet usage on bikes, and speeding. The second pillar is its drafting of a national legal framework that focuses on road safety and sustainable mobility. This was originally drafted as a general law, meaning that, if it is passed by congress, every government level has to comply, regardless of the state or municipality’s autonomy. This general law would put in place the minimum guidelines in terms of the five main risk factors.

Mexico has had uneven laws and regulations that make traffic circulation in certain parts of the country highly unsafe. For example, the state of Jalisco had a regulation that allowed users to have a blood alcohol content three times higher than international standards. Reacciona por la Vida proposes that the alcohol blood level should be standardized in every jurisdiction within the country. Additionally, it wants minimum and enforceable speed limits in cities and highways, and that cellular phone usage while driving should be penalized. Another example of critical de-regularization can be seen in Mexico City. In order for drivers to acquire their driving license, the only requisite is to prove they are of age; there is no obligation to show proof of driving knowledge or skills, or even of physical capabilities. On the other hand, there are public authorities that are truly embracing this wave of road awareness and have showed a lot of commitment toward it. For example, the Ministry of Finance was recently very active in drafting the regulations of a new law in Mexico that makes third party liability insurance mandatory on every federal highway. Although some entities have been more participative than others, there definitely seems to be a national consensus that more action needs to be taken with this topic.

Reacciona por la Vida works with companies like Google Ads Grants, the Chrysler Foundation, Estafeta, AXA, Fundación Casas, Fundación Cinépolis, Cinema Pack Cinépolis, Bosch, and Toyota. The NGO also works with UNAM and its scientists, which have studied road safety for over 15 years. Additionally, CTS Embarq has taken upon itself to raise awareness in terms of sustainable mobility, which is something that drew the attention of Reacciona por la Vida. Finally, the company is working with one of the most important think tanks in Mexico regarding road safety, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policies (ITDP). Looking ahead, Martínez McNaught is positive about the initiative’s future. “We have clear objectives in terms of public policy, such as helping the government achieve a 50% reduction in injuries and deaths by 2020. It would be terrific if we could have a road safety and sustainable mobility standard traced out before President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term ends, giving us a significant window of opportunity,” he concludes.