Each year, road accidents kill or injure the equivalent of the entire population of Colombia, with disastrous consequences for families, communities and the economy. It will take the combined energies of all to successfully eradicate the menace of unsafe roads, an especially acute problem in developing countries. On the strength of its global presence, and experience in road transportation and guided by a sense of social responsibility, Total aims to play a leading role in that effort with its partners worldwide, in particular through an ambitious educational campaign to teach young children about road safety.
Each day, nearly 3,500 people lose their lives and 137,000 are injured on roads around the world. The vast majority of those accidents — 90 percent — will occur in low- and middle-income economies1 and primarily involve young pedestrians and cyclists aged 15 to 24, with Africa the most seriously affected region2.
Behind those raw numbers lie countless human tragedies that affect victims and their families alike while posing a significant cost to society, estimated at 1 to 3 percent of each country's gross domestic product (GDP). That works out to more than $500 billion annually3.
All of these accidents have one thing in common: they are preventable.
With that in mind, the world's major organizations have been working since the early 2000s to stem the tide of road accidents, which are on the upswing as a result of population growth and the rising number of vehicles worldwide.
The United Nations, working through the World Health Organization, and the World Bank have mounted an ambitious effort to reduce road fatalities. The goal of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 is to stabilize and then reduce the projected number of deaths caused by road accidents worldwide through a host of initiatives at national, regional and global levels.
The actions taken in recent years have begun cumulatively to reverse the trend. But the results to date are still far from satisfactory, and there is an urgent need to devote greater attention to the issue by raising global awareness, mustering the political will and allocating greater resources to provide for safer roads. Indeed, road safety is now among the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), cited in Targets 3.6 and 11.2.
If no action is taken, it is projected that by 2030, given the rapid rise in car ownership and the world's growing need for mobility, roads could become the seventh leading cause of death worldwide2.
In Senegal, Total and its partners are actively investing in road safety training for children
Total's Civil Society Engagement (CSE) Division views road safety as a major challenge. And with good reason: drivers for Total log 700 million kilometers each year — that's the equivalent of 17,500 trips around Earth — carrying more than 70 million tons of products, while 1.4 million passengers make journeys on transportation related to its operations.
In addition, Total has 16,460 service stations dotted the world's roads and highways, including more than 4,300 in Africa. As a result, Total offers a wealth of experience and a credible voice when it comes to roads and road safety.
Anne-Valerie Troy, corporate senior advisor, road safety in Total's CSE Division, said: "Given our businesses, Total is a day-to-day presence on the roads. Safety is the company's most important value; it's integral to how we operate and it's the deciding factor in resolving competing demands.
"We'll never carry out a transportation or logistics activity that could endanger the general public, our employees, our contractors or our neighbors. And you have to remember that when it comes to transporting potentially hazardous products over long distances, we have a lot of neighbors to think about. "
Total's commitment combines the need for operational safety with a concern for the broader community. "Our goal is to become the responsible energy major," Troy said. "So we also pledge to serve the public interest, consistent with our history, our values and our businesses."
In the countries where Total operates, it works with every organization that has a stake in road safety: government ministries and agencies, NGOs, police and law enforcement, the International Committee of the Red Cross and others.
"Our priority is young people, aged 12 to 25," Troy said. "We tell our affiliates to be sure our partners reap the benefit of our expertise when it comes to educating and training those young people about good road safety practices. We also advise them to identify and work with the local organizations that are most effective in addressing the issue of road safety, since they may differ from one country to the next.
"Our goal is to collaborate with local authorities to provide additional knowledge and resources, without ever interfering with local policies or government actions."
One of the key partners in that commitment is the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP), an international nonprofit that forges ties among organizations active in road safety around the world. "The GRSP plays a major role in providing added resources for road safety training," Troy said. "So it's a natural partner for Total."
Such alliances are growing in number and scale. In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne met with Jean Todt, the U.N. Special Envoy for Road Safety since 2015, to reaffirm Total's commitment in that regard.
Total and its affiliates direct their message to young people, in part because road accidents are the world's leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 29, but also because the young will one day lead the fight for safer roads.
Accordingly, as its top priority, Total is taking its campaign to schools with its "On the Road to Safety" program, launched in 2013. This educational outreach is designed to help young people proactively identify and understand the hazards they face.
"Our goal is that children be able to identify the risks and stop to think first," Troy said. "Alongside our partners, we teach them the basic rules of road safety along with the practices they need to follow: how to negotiate traffic, dress for visibility and be aware of all the hazards they may face while going from home to school and back."
The program has proved a big success. "On the Road to Safety" has been deployed by 35 Total affiliates in Africa and several affiliates in Asia.
"We're currently evaluating the results and hope to draw some lessons about how we can enhance the program's impact and turn it into a long-term initiative," Troy said. "We'd like to develop more partnership initiatives, improve teacher training and serve as a genuine catalyst for government action through our advocacy. We also want to design resources and activities that are targeted to teenagers and young adults as well."
It's not easy to evaluate the effectiveness of a short-term outreach campaign designed to instill long-term habits. "But that will never blind us to the need to raise awareness among young people and teach them how to protect themselves," Troy said.
"Our primary concern at Total is the quality of our initiatives. As partners with the GRSP since 2005, we asked it to evaluate our program. That gave us some helpful insight into the value of our activities. As a result, we know that we've reached more than a million children since 2013."
That assessment revealed some areas for improvement and opportunities as part of a new program that will aim to enhance Total's positive impact for the long-term, such as strengthening partnerships, training teachers and designing modular tools that can be more easily adopted worldwide. "The idea is to join forces and work together to introduce a program that will help young people learn about road safety," Troy said.
It all adds up to a sustained commitment, made possible by Total's long-standing presence worldwide, not least through its retail and service operations.
"Everywhere we conduct this campaign, we want to be sure that the skills will remain permanently in place," Troy added. "That's one of the criteria for success and an essential factor in reducing road fatalities."
1 Under the World Bank's criteria as of July 1, 2016, using the so-called Atlas method, any country in which per capita gross national income (GNI) is $1,005 or less is described as a low-income economy; a middle-income economy has a GNI between $1,006 and $3,955.
3 Source: WHO, Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.