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Brasilia, 19 November 2015 (PAHO/WHO) — Cutting in half the number of road traffic deaths by 2020 is a feasible goal in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed a diverse panel of public and private sector road safety experts, but getting there requires political will, strong leadership and decisiveness.

"We must not allow this meeting to become an 'empty talking shop.' There should be no road that is not a safe road," said Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Carissa F. Etienne, a co-chair of the SDG panel during the 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety in Brasilia.

Cutting the death toll in half means reducing fatalities from about 1.25 million to 625,000 or less.

Pierre Guislain, Senior Director for the Transport, Information & Communications Technology Global Practice at the World Bank, pointed out that in fact it is this lower figure that we should be talking about and aiming for. "Why continue to talk about 1.25 million?"

"If all countries at this event go home and start to revise their legislation and look at where the gaps are, this can be done", noted Etienne Krug, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.

A new urban mobility design can reduce auto dependency, leaving fewer cars on the road, which automatically improves road safety trends.

"We have to shift mobility from cars and motorcycles to public transport," said the World Bank's Guislain. "The era of more cars and motorcycles on the roads is over."

Several panelists concurred that public transportation and shared riding options must become more appealing. The widespread perception in developing countries is that these options are very often unsafe and uncomfortable, so the people don't want to use it. Brazil, Mexico, among other countries, are working to fix it.

Only political will is lacking. "We can't redesign the worlds' infrastructure. But we can create laws for seat belt and helmet use. We can reduce speed limits. We can separate pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles. None of these are expensive measures", added WHO's Krug.

As Zoleka Mandela, who reminded attendees during the opening remarks a day earlier that there is a human face behind the statistics, said, "There's no excuse for not making it happen."

"We have reached a turning point in our approach to road safety and sustainable mobility, which are now firmly mainstreamed into the health agenda," added PAHO's Etienne. "It is our time and challenge to act."