"Placing the most vulnerable on the road at the center of attention would allow Italy not only to save lives, but to make a leap of civilization". To state it is Umberto Guidoni, general secretary of the ANIA Foundation for Road Safety which tells of a country still to be educated but which is on the right track. Especially since the new generations are quite careful.
1) When was the foundation born and for what purpose?
There ANIA Foundation for Road Safety was born in 2004 by the will of the insurance companies. The purpose of the ANIA Foundation is to implement initiatives to reduce the number and severity of road accidents in Italy.
2) How has the road safety emergency changed in Italy in recent years?
In 2001, the European Union set a target at EU level: to reduce road accident deaths by 50% by 2010 in all member countries. Italy recorded 7,096 victims that year, in 2010 the number of deaths was 4,090, with a decrease of 42.4%. Our country has not achieved the EU objective, but it has certainly taken the right path. Over the years, communication campaigns and awareness-raising on road safety issues have increased. For our part, for example, we have carried out 4 campaigns nationwide on the risks associated with driving under the influence and speed, distracted driving and compliance with the rules at the wheel.
3) How effective are these initiatives?
They have produced greater attention especially from younger groups, among whom, for example, the use of safety belts and helmets is widespread. There has also been an increase in the number of young people who, at the disco or on party nights, choose the so-called designated driver from the group who decides not to drink to bring the others home safely. For years we have been carrying out an initiative to educate young people in this practice, but it is not enough. The problems that occur in urban areas and on extra-urban roads, in particular state and provincial roads, where the severity of accidents is still very serious, must be addressed. The tutor system should also be introduced there, for example, and the interaction between technology, controls, education and information should be encouraged to effectively combat road accidents.
4) Are you monitoring the situation of weak subjects such as cyclists?
Time ago. Two years ago, we launched an alarm that was and is all in the numbers: in the last year (2011 Aci-Istat) in Italy 282 cyclists have died. A substantial number, despite the fact that there has been a very high decrease compared to previous years. In 1980, in fact, there were 688 cyclists who were victims of road accidents; in 2007 there were 352, down to 288 the following year, before rising to 297 in 2009, and then going down to 265 in 2010, until growing again in 2011. We were also the first in our country to relaunch the appeal of the Times of London in February 2012, the one that actually gave birth to the various "bicycle rescue" movements. We soon realized that the number of cyclists involved in road accidents in our country was increasing, and a specific commitment on this category of users is still essential.
5) What interventions do you consider useful to improve the safety of cyclists?
It is clear that the higher the diffusion of protected cycle paths, the greater the safety for cyclists. Infrastructure interventions, therefore, are the most important, but also the most difficult to implement in terms of costs and times. One of the most recent proposals concerns the creation of zones 30, urban areas where cars cannot exceed 30 kilometers per hour. It is clear that by reducing the speed, there would be fewer risks even for weak users. The safety of those who ride a bike, however, must also be ensured through careful education for cyclists: it must be made clear that the rules of the road apply to them too. The helmet, for example, is not mandatory but is strongly recommended. Useful, as well as mandatory at night, is the reflective jacket.
6) For pedestrians, on the other hand, how is the safety situation?
In the last year, 589 pedestrians have died in our country. An average of over 11 pedestrians per week. Fortunately, the overall number is decreasing, also because specific measures have been adopted in many cities. In Rome, for example, the number of dead pedestrians dropped from 65 in 2009 to 44 in 2011. This is also thanks to initiatives such as the restoration of over 500 at-risk pedestrian crossings financed with a memorandum of understanding between us and the Capitol. The infrastructural work, combined with an ad hoc communication strategy, has made it possible to increase the sensitivity and attention of motorists to pedestrians.
7) How is the Italian situation compared to that of other European countries?
Both for the number of dead cyclists and for the number of dead pedestrians, Italy ranks third in Europe. In the first case it is preceded by Germany and Poland, in the second by Poland and Romania. The reasons are many, linked to cultural aspects and the state of the infrastructures. In Italy a cultural revolution based on respect for the rules of the road is necessary to be able to have effective results. Placing the most vulnerable on the road at the center of attention would allow Italy not only to save lives, but to make a leap of civilization.