Maio Amarelo: Raising awareness for road safety in Brazil
Crowded and chaotic streets in Rio de Janeiro underscore why Brazil has such a significant road safety challenge. Photo by Yukun Chen/Flickr.

Crowded and chaotic streets in Rio de Janeiro underscore why Brazil has such a significant road safety challenge. Photo by Yukun Chen/Flickr.

Raising awareness and tapping into public sentiment is essential to making inroads against any major threat to public health. October, for example, is breast cancer awareness month and in November we remember all those lost to prostate cancer. Now, the month of May is road safety month in Brazil. Traffic crashes are now one of the leading causes of death around the world, which is doubly painful because they are also one of the most preventable. The Maio Amarelo (“Yellow May”) campaign is an international movement based in Brazil to raise awareness and combat traffic crashes and fatalities.

To help understand why road safety is such a necessary issue to bring to light, below is the Roads Kill Map, an interactive map published by the Pulitzer Center and organized with data from the World Health Organization (WHO). This map shows the alarming enormity of this crisis, with 1.2 million people dying each year worldwide due to traffic crashes. The map also shows the uneven distribution of these deaths, with developing countries bearing the burden of this crisis.

The Roads Kill Map shows the discrepancy in road deaths between emerging and developed economies. Map by the Pulizter Center. Dia via WHO.

The Roads Kill Map shows the discrepancy in road deaths between emerging and developed economies. Map by the Pulizter Center. Dia via WHO.

In Brazil, the death rate is 23 per 100,000 inhabitants. By comparison, in the United States this number is halved (11 deaths per 100 thousand people). In Sweden there are only three deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Traffic deaths specifically bring with them a huge financial and emotional burden for the entire community. These deaths are unexpected, and affect many of the city’s younger residents who are the very people needed to build a better future. And this form of death is also largely preventable through relatively straightforward measures. Investing in sustainable transport solutions and promoting biking and walking can have dramatically positive impacts while also benefiting the environment and improving mobility.

Opening up the conversation on road safety

Here at TheCityFix and our partner site TheCityFix Brasil, our hope is that in having an awareness month it will bring road safety into public discussion. Beyond that, we hope that awareness rouses the engagement of both business and government to contribute to the reduction of traffic victims and address this serious problem plaguing Brazilian cities. Without action, the WHO estimates traffic deaths will further increase, from 1.2 million to 2 million people globally each year by 2030, and will deepen the economic divide between emerging and developed economies.

The choice of May to be the month to promote road safety was prompted by the fact that it was on May 11, 2011 that the United Nations declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 – 2020. This has become the world reference month for when countries tally their road deaths and see how far they have come in curbing traffic-related deaths. So far, most countries have not made significant progress in curbing traffic deaths, and many have seen an increase.

To learn more about this topic and the Roads Kill Map, visit the Pulitzer Center. Share this information with your friends. Notice areas in your community where pedestrian traffic is discouraged or dangerous and make people aware of it. You might just save a life.

This post was originally published in Portuguese at TheCityFix Brasil. Translation by Rachel Jaffe and Ryan Schleeter. 

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