Impulses for more road safety – a case example from Bolivia


Everyone knows that road safety measures can save human lives. Unfortunately, awareness of this topic still comes up too short in many countries. PTV employee Sofia Salek de Braun agitated for this topic in her homeland of Bolivia and organised a Road Safety Workshop jointly with colleague Paulo Humanes. The result: the formulation of a new “Road safety chart for Bolivia” as well as widespread positive reactions on the political, social and media levels.

Compass: What, precisely, did the project in Bolivia involve?

Sofia Salek de Braun: Road safety is a topic that has little presence in Latin America. Neither in the media nor in the population. Now as before, this is the region that has the most accident deaths worldwide. Simple things that are already standard for many countries are neglected in Latin America, for example, always wearing seat belts. In the end, the concern was to create an awareness of the importance of this topic among authorities and in the people.

Compass: What was the reason for your trip?

Sofia Salek de Braun: I am originally from Bolivia, from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, to be precise. It is a very beautiful big city where my family still lives. This is also the reason why we travel there about every two years, in order to spend time with family. But in December 2015, everything went awry. Right after our arrival, we were in a serious auto accident, in which my son Luca and his grandparents were killed. In just a few seconds, our lives had changed completely. No family should have to live through this, for traffic accidents can be avoided. This is why we decided to take action.

Step by step, from conversation to conversation, we had some great encounters. Thus also the encounter with my colleague Paulo Humanes, with whose expertise and network we developed a concrete plan from a mere idea. We know that Bolivia has many serious problems to overcome, and with respect to road safety, new impulses should be set there to generate movement in the right direction.

Sofia Salek de Braun and Paulo Humanes in Bolivia.

Compass: What goals have you set for yourself and with what expectations did you start out?

Paulo Humanes: To achieve a paradigm change in society, people have to re-think things. Road safety concerns all of us. But each culture is different. Therefore, measures and rules from other countries cannot simply be transferred to Latin America. With the workshop, we wanted to provide Bolivian authorities and participating organisations with basic knowledge and formulate steps. Here, we oriented ourselves using activities from countries that are already successful in the road safety sector. The factors for this are varied and complex. The first step is therefore an analysis of the existing situation. Only then can measures be formulated that fit the situation and result in an improved traffic system.

Compass: What group of people are you addressing with this project?

Paulo Humanes: From the very beginning, we thought a lot about the right target group. It had to be ensured that we were including a group of people who understand the information and content of the workshop completely and can then apply these. In particular, however, these participants should become multipliers in order to spread this knowledge.

Participating in the workshops were: public functionaries and technical employees (e.g. engineers, architects) whose responsibilities include road safety – and this on the various levels of the country, region and city. Also present were committees and representatives from various sectors in the transport and traffic area, academic institutions, civil society organisations, as well as press and media.

In the end, everybody has to come together and learn to act in concert, for road safety affects all of us and requires great cooperation. Only this way can we take responsibility jointly. Only this way will we succeed in saving lives.

Compass: What was the reaction?

Sofia Salek de Braun: The enthusiasm of the local people was unbelievable. As soon as the first people learned about our plan, we were bombarded with inquiries. Whether from our private circle, representatives of the regional police and administration, from the press to members of foundations – engaged people from all areas offered their help immediately and wanted to support us. We were happy about each and every one and we entered into dialogue with them right away.

Compass: What measures have already been taken?

Sofia Salek de Braun: Even the first announcement about the workshop triggered unbelievable movement in Bolivia. It appeared that people had just been waiting to change the existing situation. Most important of all is that all parties participating in the topic of road safety have formulated a joint solution for the very first time. They took up many of the experts’ suggestions with thanks, but in particular they adapted them to their own situations and improved them. For example, one point was the use of radar cameras for regulating speeds on the roads and the re-use of the money collected from fines for further safety measures.

During the entire week, additional actions were implemented, supported by the police and local authorities in Santa Cruz.

In the end, we formulated a “Road Safety Chart for Bolivia” which all workshop participants signed. This chart now serves as the basis for a new road safety network in Bolivia and it has already been presented to the government ministry.

Compass: Which next steps were agreed upon, how will things continue in 2017?

Paulo Humanes: We will continue our work. Together with our partners at the World Resource Institute (WRI) on site, we are supporting the formulation of new road safety laws in Bolivia. Our support will not be confined to copying successful examples. We have already made contact with development banks that have great interest in supporting these initiatives financially. In addition, concrete projects should be implemented. These must be developed, checked and implemented. Together with our friends at WRI, we are in the process of implementing all of these measures.

Compass: What especially surprised you?

Paulo Humanes: On the next-to-last workshop day, the task was to examine five especially dangerous points in the city. Thus the participants were divided up into different teams and assigned to the various points. On the way back from this long, exhausting and very hot workshop day, when it was 35 degrees outside, we were wishing for time to cool off in the pool. However, to our surprise, we found the participating teams in the workshop room, highly motivated and still discussing the problems – long beyond normal working hours. Although demanding tasks such as analysing the data collected and formulating measures for improvement were planned for the next day, the participants’ dynamic could not be stopped. Needless to say, we never made it to the pool.

Compass: What is your greatest achievement thus far?

Sofia Salek de Braun: The greatest thing for us was to see how the different groups and people entered into conversation with one another and how they themselves understood in the process that road safety in their country can only be improved if they work together.

Compass: Where is there still work to be done?

Paulo Humanes: The Road Safety Training in Santa Cruz was only the first step of many to come in order to get a grip on the problem of road safety. Here, three important points must be kept in mind: The behaviour of each individual person, the vehicles and the infrastructure.

Compass: Where and how can other interested parties assist with this project?

Paulo Humanes: The project has just begun. We at PTV are taking care of it, seeing that proven methods are applied. WRI is coordinating the implementation. Here they are concentrating not just on road safety, but also on how traffic can be designed so that it is more sustainable. This is also the reason why the workshop in Bolivia was directed at such a heterogeneous group. Representatives from various authorities and government departments, the local police, traffic experts, NGOs, automobile clubs and citizens are integrated into the process and they require help, examples, and best practices on various levels. Any form of assistance is welcome. We firmly believe in the principle of the event: It is likely that we cannot change the world, but we can certainly change our personal outlook.

It is very important to us that the workshop will not be a one-shot deal. In order to truly change something, the entire population must be incorporated. Therefore, we have set up a Facebook page. The community is growing daily and is very active. We welcome any and all supporters.


2 thoughts on “Impulses for more road safety – a case example from Bolivia

  1. Very good initiative for road safety in Bolivia!
    The most wondrous thing about it – all starts with a private initiative and low budget but the outcome is amazing! Why? There´s a lot of potential and a lot of people want to change the poor road safety conditions on the roads. We need to take action when children die on roads and their families suffer. It needs collaboration and a rethinking process to pool forces.
    Thanks to Sofia for her outstanding commitment and encouraging initiative!

    • Thank you Andre, not only for your great and powerful comment, also for being a key figure for this approach. It is true, to make a change we have to start with ourselves, and transmit this attitude to all levels of government and decision makers is definitively the right way. This is what we did in Bolivia, the seed is planted now and we have to water it together 🙂

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