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The Safe System approach was pioneered in the 1990s, through
programs such as Vision Zero in Sweden and Sustainable Safety in the
Netherlands. More recently, cities in middle-income countries, including Bogota
and Mexico City, have begun to redirect their road safety strategies toward a
system-based approach (CDMX 2017). Not only does the approach bring down fatality
rates but can also help address climate change and poor air quality through
reduced carbon dioxide emissions from transport, as it tends to focus on the
safety and promotion of public transport, walking and bicycling.

Following its successful implementation across regions and scales,
the Safe System approach has gained global attention. The United Nations (UN)
Global Plan for Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 (WHO 2011b) embraces
a comprehensive, system-based approach to traffic safety. Galvanizing efforts
such as the Decade of Action; ministerial-level meetings; declarations such as
the ones made in Moscow in 2009 and Brasilia in 2015; and inclusion of road
safety in the SDGs, the New Urban Agenda, and the four pillars of sustainable
mobility have generated momentum.

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The Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal
call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people
enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals,
while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality,
innovation, sustainable consumption, peace
and justice, among other priorities. Among these areas, a specific
stand-alone target was included in the Health Goal to reduce road traffic
fatalities by 50% by 2020 and to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible
and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. This marked a momentous occasion at
the UN Development summit for road safety advocates, because, for the first
time in SDGs history, road safety was included under not just one but two of
the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted.

Under these nonbinding goals and policy statements, many countries
have made commitments to halve road deaths by 2020. Without a dramatic change
in approach that creates a safe mobility system, this goal may not be reached even
by 2030 in most places.

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