Nº 4 2013 > Laureates of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award
Jean Todt, President of the International Automobile Federation
Invest more to save lives on our roads
Accepting the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, Jean Todt, President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), commended the work of ITU in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) and road safety.
Mr Todt pointed out that with an estimated 1.3 million deaths each year, road accidents kill twice as many people as malaria, as many as tuberculosis and almost as many as AIDS. He warned that “If nothing is done, 2 million people will die on the world’s roads each year by 2020, which means more than any of these major pandemics. And this does not take into account the 50 million people severely injured every year. This will rise to 80 million by 2020 if no action is taken.”
Mr Todt went on to underline that road safety is not only a human issue, but also a challenge for economic development. “An estimated 90 per cent of road accidents happen in emerging and developing countries. And we estimate that they already cost to developing countries 100 billion dollars a year, which equals the amount these countries receive in international aid,” he said.
Unfortunately, these dramatic figures are still largely ignored. “Road safety remains widely seen as a national issue, while instead it has become a genuine global challenge. And so the international community must mobilize more purposefully. The United Nations has paved the way by launching, two years ago, the Decade of Action for Road Safety. But we need to go further and we need to go faster. Road safety must be given the place it deserves on the international agenda: one of major priority,” said Mr Todt, suggesting that road safety should be integrated into the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals that will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals.
He stressed the need to find additional resources to battle against road accidents, which he categorized as one of the greatest — and one of the fastest growing — problems of our time. “The international community rightly spends billions of dollars to take up major issues such as the environment, pandemics, food crisis, and so on. But still, far too little money is pledged by the international community for this battle — in no way less vital. This must change.” His strong belief that ICT can make an incredible difference in road safety was based on improved vehicle safety over the past 10–15 years, thanks to enhanced crash test standards, crumple zones, air bags and so on.
“Now a new generation of safety systems, often based on ICT, can even prevent accidents from happening in the first place. Intelligent vehicle technologies are making cars safer than ever before. Applications such as electronic stability control, warning and emergency braking systems, lane support systems, blind spot monitoring, adaptative headlights and of course speed alerts can help avoid thousands and thousands of accidents, and save thousands and thousands of lives”, he said. In the European Union alone, it is estimated that if all cars used electronic stability control, at least 4000 lives a year could be saved and 100 000 injuries avoided.
Mr Todt highlighted the problem of the lack of awareness among policy-makers and car users, not only about the possibility of using ICT to improve road safety, but also about the danger of using electronic items — cellphones, smartphones, and so on — behind the wheel. He cited a recent American study showing that texting while driving has now replaced drunk driving as the primary cause of teenage road deaths in the United States. He was pleased that ITU in partnership with FIA would be launching a global campaign specifically about the dangers of texting and driving.
“Raising awareness is a first step, but we also have to imagine ways to make these electronic items as less intrusive as possible. For example, why not work with the phone manufacturers on a ‘car mode’, the same way we already have a ‘fly mode’? This would be a first step for responsible drivers who don’t want to be tempted while driving, to decide to not receive calls and not be able to text, for example, while behind the wheel. The next step is also to make progress on man-machine interfaces to make these electronic items as little intrusive as possible. This, as well as surveillance of the drivers’ state of attention, are important developments for the future,” said Mr Todt.
Jean Todt is President of the International Automobile Federation (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, FIA). He is well known in the area of motorsports where, under his leadership as CEO of Ferrari, Scuderia Ferrari won 14 Formula‑1 World titles — including five consecutive titles with Michael Schumacher — and 106 Grand Prix.
Since his election as President of FIA in October 2009, Mr Todt has made global road safety a priority of the Federation. In April 2009, Mr Todt became President of the “eSafetyAware” campaign.
Jean Todt is also Vice-President of the Foundation known as Institut du cerveau et de moelle épinière (Brain and Spine Institute — a research centre which brings together patients, physicians and researchers under one roof for the rapid treatment of lesions affecting the nervous system).
About the International Automobile Federation
FIA is the governing body for world motor sport and the federation of the world’s leading motoring organizations. Founded in 1904, with headquarters in Paris, the FIA is a non-profit making association.
It brings together more than 230 national motoring and sporting organizations from over 135 countries on five continents. Its member clubs represent millions of motorists and their families.
FIA will collaborate with ITU over the next seven years to contribute towards achieving the goals of the UN “Decade of Action for Road Safety”.