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News Article

Can Mexico Improve Road Safety Post-COVID-19?

By Peter Appleby | Thu, 05/28/2020 - 19:28

In 2017, 15,866 people were killed on Mexico’s roads, according to data from the International Transport Forum (ITF) Road Safety Annual Report 2019. In contrast, the best performing country, Norway, saw only 108 fatalities on roads. Considering the difference in population, road users are over six times more likely to be killed in Mexico than in Norway.

But as lockdown measures have been enforced and roads have cleared of vehicles, some cities have seen road accident fatalities drop by up to 60 percent, according to the International Development Bank (IDB). Now, cities are wondering how they can keep roads safer for longer and into the post-pandemic future.

Mexico’s traffic is one among many countries that have witnessed this fall in traffic. Rystad Energy, an energy sector consultant, reports that volumes of cars in on the capital’s roads fell by 40 percent in April.

Speed may be the leading factor behind a large portion of road accidents. In France, road accident fatalities fell by 40 percent in March, says the IDB. But deaths did not fall to a corresponding level. According to the bank, there is no clear answer to why this happened, though the most likely reason is that with fewer vehicles on the roads, speeds are increasing. At higher speeds, when accidents occur, they are more likely to be fatal. Decreasing speeds on Mexico’s roads could be one way to increase safety.

Loss of life would not the only reason for Mexico to improve its road safety for the future. The financial impact of clearing accidents and the delays they caused cost the country 0.5 percent of its US$1.078 trillion GDP in 2016 or US$5.39 billion.

Other countries are already moving to implement safer road systems for the future. The Guardian reports that the local government in Milan, Italy is taking steps to reduce the number of road lanes given to cars and implement new speed limits of 30kmph where possible. The city is also handing over more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Could cities in Mexico do something similar?

Individual cities can also change legislation to increase road safety. Tougher penalties for drivers over speed or alcohol limits are an avenue that can be enforced if the police force is willing.

In Mexico City, other routes are more obvious still. The 11,656 accidents recorded in the capital by INEGI in 2018 are hardly surprising, given that individuals wanting to obtain a driving license do not even have to show that they know how to drive. An article in national newspaper Excelsior explains that those wanting a license need only to show their official ID, proof of address, pay MX$796 (around US$35) and sign a document to be granted a license. Without drivers who have been given a test and taught road safety and etiquette, improving safety in the long term may be difficult.

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst