On May 15-16, 2023, Belgrade, Serbia became the epicenter of a landmark regional road safety conference hosted by the International Road Federation (IRF Global) and the Serbian Road Traffic Safety Agency (RTSA). The event, held as part of the 7th UN Global Road Safety week, drew participants from 30 countries and marked a pivotal moment in the Balkans’ quest to tackle the road traffic injury crisis that annually claims 6,500 lives in the region.
The Vision Zero Approach
At the heart of the conference was the Vision Zero approach, a fundamental belief that no death or serious injury is acceptable on our roads. Achieving this aspiration demands a united front from all parts of the transport system to minimize the risk and consequences of driver error.
A Regional Crisis
The Balkan region faces a grave challenge – it experiences a significantly higher proportion of road crash-related deaths and serious injuries per million inhabitants than the EU27. These casualties represent not just numbers but lives lost, human capital depleted, and infrastructure damage – a colossal cost that communities must bear. However, the stark reality is that these losses are largely preventable. It’s high time for the region’s policymakers and transport professionals to make road safety their top priority.
The Power of Collaboration
This conference brought together key stakeholders from the region and beyond. The event was keynoted by Željko Brkić, State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; Dmitry Mariyasin, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNECE; Kris Peeters, Vice President, European Investment Bank; Ljuba Siljanoska, Deputy Director, Transport Community; and Miroslav Alempić, Assistant Minister for Road Transport, Roads, and Road Safety of the Republic of Serbia, alongside senior officials from Balkan road agencies and intergovernmental organizations. This gathering showcased a shift in ownership of the problem, aligning with global efforts within the 2nd United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.
IRF Global’s Commitment and Impact
As a global knowledge broker, the IRF Global is already deeply involved in collaborating with the region’s main transport stakeholders. Through cost-effective programs, sharing best practices with decision-makers, and training front-line personnel, IRF Global is driving change in road safety. The cycle of Vision Zero conferences goes a step further, offering fresh insights and field-tested solutions to sustainably reduce road traffic injuries. Every day, IRF Global member organizations are effecting real change by designing innovative solutions, from low-cost road markings to speed enforcement cameras. These solutions play a crucial role in protecting people from the devastating consequences of road accidents.
Support from NEWROAD Consulting
NEWROAD Consulting proudly supported the organization of this important event. Nina Elter, Founder and CEO of NEWROAD Consulting, emphasized the importance of unity in striving for the ambitious Vision Zero goal. Over 75 years, the IRF has fostered partnerships worldwide, bringing together governments, development institutions, businesses, and academia to make safer and more sustainable roads a reality. The Vision Zero for the Balkans event exemplified the spirit of sharing lessons across borders, an invaluable component of sustainable change.
In conclusion, Vision Zero for the Balkans was not just a conference but a clarion call to transform road safety in the region. A plea for collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to the vision that no life should be lost on our roads. The road ahead may be challenging, but it’s an essential journey for the well-being of our communities and the prosperity of our nations.