President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,
I want to welcome you all to Moscow and the first international conference on road safety.
I just asked our Interior Minister how many countries are represented here. 150 countries is a very impressive number. I would like to cordially thank you all for coming to Russia and taking part in this very important event. And I am very pleased that our initiative to hold it has received such enthusiastic response.
I think much has already been said. But there are still some things that I consider important and want to repeat. Until recently, traffic safety was seen by some countries as a purely internal matter, a local problem. Meanwhile, the figures, which I’m sure have already been cited in this room, show that it is one of the main problems of international development, the one which requires common strategies and joint action.
Today, when I looked through the materials prepared for our forum, our conference, I once again realized for myself that the numbers are simply amazing – depressing if you prefer. Despite the fact that they probably have already been cited today I cannot but repeat them: more than 3,500 people are killed every day in road accidents. Different sources state that every year more than a million people (of which one in five are children) are killed throughout the world. In other words, every year we lose one big city, a metropolis. More than 50 million people are injured and crippled. If we do nothing to reverse this trend, then according to at least these estimates, to the data we have, by 2020 road accidents will become the third most serious threat to human health, along with circulatory system diseases and certain other problems.
It is clear that there is no way one can measure the price of human suffering, but we can measure the damage caused to national economies. This has been calculated at a figure of more than 500 billion US dollars, of which developing economies incur approximately 100 billion US dollars. This is a huge amount of money which naturally could be spent for entirely different purposes, for development, for example.
The main cause of road accidents is traffic violations, that is what traditionally happens on the roads in various countries – speeding, drunk driving, simply adopting a disrespectful attitude towards others, and a lack of driving culture. Unfortunately, everything I just referred to exists in our country. We need to create rules at the level of national legislation, rules that would give definite, absolutely clear signals to drivers in all countries. For example, such rules would state that a driver deprived of the right to drive in one country is not able to drive in another one, at least without any prior re-certification.
Along with stepping up repressive measures and increasing fines and penalties, we need to improve training for drivers and pedestrians, provide accident victims with timely quality medical care and, of course, pay special attention to the quality of roads and upgrading road infrastructure.
A special topic for our country, as for many countries (though this is in some way part of a national mentality), is the behaviour of drivers or driving culture. On the other hand, human error must be compensated by the maximum possible security of the vehicles. Recently much has been done in this field and, of course, today's vehicles are significantly different from the one we had of 20, 30 or more than 50 years ago. But it is important to continue to monitor the running order of vehicles and automakers must make greater use of technological innovations. Of course, there is always a choice to be made between the cost of new vehicles and using innovative technology. But since we are talking about security, then I believe this is still more important, even if compared to such indicator as price.
We are convinced that we need to develop immediate and joint systemic measures to better ensure road safety. We must coordinate international efforts in this area. To speak frankly, we can coordinate them, as we agreed today, just as the international community is currently working together to overcome the global financial crisis. The problem we are talking about, the figures we are citing, are no less dramatic for our planet than the consequences of global recession, or even issues of food security. Russia supports the UN initiative to declare the coming decade, from 2011 to 2020, that of action to ensure road safety.
We must intensify the efforts of international financial organisations in this field (or at least give signals as to how such work should proceed), and find ways to support global, regional and national programmes to promote road safety, especially for low- and middle-income countries.
Colleagues, I think that my friends have already told you about how things stand in Russia. In Russia we have approved a National Strategy to improve road safety. Since 2006 we have had a federal target programme designed to reduce the number of car accident victims by half compared to 2004. Nevertheless, the situation in this area is very bad. Last year nearly 30,000 people were killed on Russian roads. Despite the many measures we have taken, things have not improved as much as we would like. Accordingly, after holding a meeting [on August 6, 2009] – and I fully admit that it was held as the result of a succession of very serious incidents – on August 31 I gave orders to the Government Cabinet, the ministries and the various departments. I think that those present here would be interested to know what has been done and, incidentally, what hasn’t been done, and for that I am going to call on the Ministry of the Interior, our State Traffic Safety Inspectorate and other departments.
What have we agreed on? First, there is a systemic change, one that has not yet been implemented but is very important: by March 1 we need to draft regulations for road safety. Unfortunately, I have to openly admit that we do not yet have such regulations, and I am sure that many countries represented here do not have them either, but they are very important. This is because we need to understand how to build roads and how to make them safe. Ultimately, I am convinced that such regulations should be standardized in some sort of global way.
We have a special programme for training drivers, and we have decided to intensify it, to prepare proposals that will enable us to track these processes more actively, and to introduce modern techniques to ensure that driving tests are more accurate. An instruction has been issued to organise a telephone hotline to the traffic police. As far as I know, this has already been implemented. Has it? It is also a very important measure. On the one hand, it can prove useful for any kind of incident, but on the other hand it is an anti-corruption measure, because here too there have been problems.
For employers, we must prepare specific regulations, as well as for those who carry freight, passengers and cargo. Moreover, these regulations are interdepartmental. As far as I know, they have not been prepared, or rather not yet approved by joint order. I propose to do this soon.
There is another issue. A purely human one and, I think an important one. We must create a special programme to ensure that our car owners – those behind the wheel – can provide basic first aid. This amounts to humanitarian help. Every person who witnesses an accident must have basic skills to help those who were affected. I understand that we are working on a corresponding programme in this field as well.
Why did I cite all these measures which seem like local, sort of purely Russian? I am sure that there is much to work on within our international cooperation. I am also sure that similar problems, at least some of them, exist in a number of countries represented here. Therefore, exchanging experiences in this regard is extremely important.
I believe that the recommendations your Conference will work out must take into account Russia's experience (both positive and negative) and international experience, the experience of those countries represented in this room.
I would sincerely like to wish the First Ministerial Conference on Road Safety success. I hope that your work will represent a new stage in cooperation on these very complex issues, bring our positions closer, make them clearer, and make our cooperation more productive. I wish you success in your work.