Methods and successful case studies in one of the world’s most challenging road safety environments
By Mark Boada, Executive Editor
Collectively, the members of the U.S.-based Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) have a superior fleet safety record. So, it made sense to NETS’ board of directors to take the organization’s expertise last month to Latin America – the region with the world’s second-highest rate of traffic fatalities — and demonstrate to fleet safety managers the ways they can help change the safety culture and prevent crashes.
The two-day event – the organization’s first-ever outside the U.S. in its history — held in San Jose, Costa Rica was called the NETS Latin American Regional Satellite Conference, and to hear NETS Executive Director Joe McKillips tell it, it was “a tremendous success on several levels.”
He explained: “First, given the fact that numerous NETS member companies carry a multinational footprint, hosting the event outside the U.S. enabled NETS to focus specifically on the road safety needs and challenges impacting the Latin America region. Second, was the fact that we had more people attending than we expected: a total of 62 attendees were present, from essentially all the countries in the region.”
McKillips said the event featured presentations from 21 individuals, including regional fleet safety managers with success stories and advice from such multinational companies as Abbott, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Ecolab, Merck, Roche, Shell and UPS. Also on hand were a variety of NETS road safety sponsors including CEPA SafeDrive, Geotab, eDriving, AlertDriving and Mix Telematics
The backdrop to the conference is that, as a group, the 20 countries that lie south of the United States border have the world’s second-highest average rate of traffic fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to FMW’s analysis of figures from the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety. The region’s average rate of 18.4 fatalities per 100,000 is more than four times that of Western Europe, and is exceeded only by Africa’s margin 31.0 per 100,000. Compared to the rate of 12.4 in the U.S., the Latin American rate is nearly 50 percent higher.
McKIllips opened the conference by citing several notable Latin America road safety statistics:
- More than 150,000 fatalities occur in the region of the Americas each year, representing 12 percent of the road traffic deaths worldwide.
- In Costa Rica more than 70 percent of all traffic-related deaths in 2017 involved pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcycle drivers.
- In Brazil, there are 433,000 collisions per year and 5.1 deaths per hour.
- In Mexico, the cost of traffic crashes represents 1.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
The consensus at the conference was that it will take a concerted and combined effort by government, private enterprise and non-profit safety advocates to bring down the region’s accident rates, especially as increasing urbanization threatens to drive rates even higher.
Speakers acknowledged that roads need to be made safer and governments need to raise automobile safety standards. At the same time, they said, fleets can do much to change their drivers’ behavior, through many of the same methods being used in Europe and North America, including the use of telematics, advanced driver monitoring, risk assessment, scoring and training, and the engagement of supervisors in changing their companies’ driving safety culture.
“As a final note, within the conference there was no shortage of professionalism, passion and respect for the tremendous challenges which lie ahead across Latin America,” McKillips observed. “Completion of the NETS Latin America satellite conference marked a significant milestone for NETS and fits directly into our organization’s strategic expansion to help employers reduce risk and save lives across the globe.
“NETS members, sponsors, government entities and non-profit associations can expect to see continued international conferences take place in the future as we work to build on the momentum and energy generated from the Latin America conference.”