Colombia’s landmark Road Safety Law could save countless lives

Colombia’s landmark Road Safety Law could save countless lives

Bogotá, Colombia, 20 June 2022 -  Juliàn Estaban’s Law, Bill PL408/2021, was ratified by the Colombian government today after consultations with civil society, the World Health Organization and across government. The new law moves road and infrastructure design, vehicle safety standards, driver licensing and data on injuries in Colombia closer to global recommendations.

Road crashes are second largest of killer of people aged between 10 and 45 years old in Colombia, with over 3450 deaths recorded by the government in 2020. For every death attributed to COVID-19 in people under the age 20 in the year 2020, there were 4 times as many deaths from crashes.

“This crucial new law could help save thousands of lives. It is a major step forwards for Colombia in setting up the robust legislative framework that we need to ensure safe mobility for everyone, and establishing a proven, life-saving safe systems approach to road safety,” said Gina Tambini, WHO-PAHO representative in Colombia.

The law is named after 13-year-old crash victim Julián Esteban Gómez, who was killed while cycling in July 2021. He was an avid fan of Egan Bernal, the first Colombian and Latin American ever to win the Tour de France bicycle race in 2019. A strong push from civil society, senators, house representatives and grantees supported by the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety helped shape the new law.

The aim of the law is to guide the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public road safety policy with through the proven safe systems approach. The law includes a maximum speed limit of 50 km/h in urban areas and 30 km/h in residential areas of with schools. It adheres to United Nations regulations for vehicle standards and licensing.

“The Julián Esteban Law has brought us together to honour the memory of Julián and the 3000 other children whose lives we lost over the last decade. This first, coherent and robust regulatory framework will lead to many more regulations to boost everyone's right to move without having to die on the roads,” said Mary Bottagisio, Executive Director of the Liga Contra la Violencia Vial Foundation.

Civil society organizations played in crucial role in helping ensure the regulatory framework fits with recommendations in the Global Plan for the Decade of Action on Road Safety, including promoting governance, providing tools to tackle risky behaviours and ensure all relevant public and private sector bodies step up to their responsibilities. The Global Plan calls for a 50% reduction in deaths from road crashes by 2030.

WHO-PAHO supported the law by providing technical advice, data and support, including to representatives in Congress, and teams working for the senators and representatives charged with crafting the law.

“Road safety is everyone’s business. We all use the roads each day, and we can all do our bit to make them safer. No deaths on our streets are ever acceptable,” said WHO’s Gina Tambini.