Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Serrano, Emmer Urge World Bank President to Help Improve Road Safety in Developing Countries

Jul 29, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Reps. José E. Serrano (D-NY) and Tom Emmer (R-MN) sent a letter last week to World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, with 39 of their colleagues urging him to improve road safety in developing countries.

Worldwide more than 1.3 million die in road crashes annually, with nearly 90 percent occurring in developing countries. While the World Bank has already taken strides towards improving road safety, the rate of global deaths due to crashes continues to rise with the World Health Organization anticipating deaths due to traffic injury to surpass HIV/AIDS soon.

“As we’ve seen in the United States, there is nothing more important to raising living standards, increasing safety and promoting economic development than improvements to transportation,” said Emmer. “As developing nations continue to grow, transportation is key to allowing industry and trade to expand and there is no organization more important to this than the World Bank. I am proud to work with a bipartisan coalition of Members in advocating for American citizens and interests abroad by advancing the goal of upgrading transportation safety in developing nations.”

“Road safety, both at home and abroad, is vital to citizens’ security, helps decrease healthcare costs, and boosts economic competitiveness. We have to make developing countries’ roads meet minimum safety standards to protect the lives of millions of people while promoting economic growth.  Through its financing of road construction projects around the globe, the World Bank is uniquely positioned to help improve road safety for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists—by requiring a minimum set of cost-effective and attainable standards.  I am honored to work with colleagues from both sides of aisle to bring attention to this important issue,” said Congressman Serrano.

The text of the letter is below and attached:

Jim Yong Kim


The World Bank

1818 H Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20433


Dear Dr. Kim:

As you may know, road crashes have become a significant and troubling problem worldwide.  More than 1.3 million people are killed in road crashes each year, 90 percent of them in developing countries.  A large percentage of the victims are children.  The rate of road crashes has been rising quickly, and the World Health Organization expects road traffic injuries to overtake HIV/AIDS as a leading cause of death.  We believe that the World Bank is uniquely positioned to improve road safety around the world.


We are concerned about road safety abroad not only because of its global impact, but also because it helps protect our constituents when they travel.  Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that road crashes are the most prevalent cause of non-natural death of American travelers abroad, surpassing terrorism and other forms of crime. 

In addition to preventing road-related fatalities, building safe roads makes economic sense.  As you pointed out in your foreword to the World Bank’s report “Transport for Health,” road crashes cost approximately one to five percent of Gross Domestic Product in developing countries.  In light of this, the Bank’s website rightly notes that expenditure on road safety should be seen as an investment and not as a cost.

Because the World Bank plays a preeminent role in financing road construction in developing countries, you are in a position to have tremendous influence in the efforts to improve road safety.  We know that the World Bank has taken some important steps to address these issues, including the establishment of the Global Road Safety Facility.  However, the World Bank’s funding for the Facility has amounted to only a very small percentage (less than one one-thousandth) of what the Bank spends on roads.

We believe that more needs to be done to address the safety of all roads built under World Bank projects.  Too often, roads in developing countries are built without the proper safeguards to prevent crashes, and with little regard for the safety of all road users, including vulnerable pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.  The design requirements for safe roads are well understood, and development agencies’ construction projects should more closely follow these guidelines.

One way that the World Bank has tried to improve safety is to work with the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), which rates roads from one to five stars in terms of road safety for each category of road users (vehicle occupants, pedestrians, etc.).  iRAP has found that an increase of one star cuts crash deaths by roughly half, and that road safety investments yield impressive economic returns.

While the World Bank has financed some road construction where it requires a three-star minimum rating, it has not made this a requirement for all the construction it funds.  In order to reduce accidents and deaths, we urge you to require a three-star minimum rating for each category of road users on all World Bank-funded roads. 

By requiring a three-star minimum rating, you have the opportunity to make a major and lasting contribution that will save people’s lives, significantly reduce traffic-related injuries, and enhance economic growth.  Thank you for your consideration of this issue, and we look forward to working with you to improve road safety.





Congressman José E. Serrano has represented The Bronx in Congress since 1990.