NASCAR and the United Nations Road Safety Program

By | February 15, 2010

As the 2010 NASCAR season kicked off the weekend, I figured it was time to put to words an idea that has been in my head since November, coincidentally when last NASCAR season ended.

safetyIn Novemeber 2009, the United Nations hosted the first ever Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. Because road safety and traffic accidents are a growing concern throughout the world, “as many as 1500 participants including ministers; representatives of UN agencies, civil society organizations and private companies” met in Russia for the conference. This group sought to stem the worldwide problem of road safety.

(According to some of the UN’s published numbers,

  • More than a million people are killed in road accidents in the developing world each year
  • Every day a thousand under 25 year-olds are killed in road accidents
  • Road accidents are the world’s number one killer of 15 -19 year olds.)

As a result of the Conference’s “Moscow Declaration“, the years 2011 to 2020 have been declared the “Decade of Action for Road Safety”. As a follow-up to the November meeting, the UN General Assembly is scheduled to discuss their initiatives during the road safety decade this March. The initiatives will include a focus on the following danger areas:

  • the non-use of seat-belts and child restraints
  • drinking and driving
  • the non-use of helmets
  • excessive speed
  • the lack of appropriate road infrastructure

Since the UN started looking at road safety nearly five years ago, they have teamed up with several racing organizations and personalities. In 2007, Formula 1 supported the first UN Global Road Safety Week by pushing their racers to contribute to the effort through speeches and photo ops. Drivers Michael Schumaker and Lewis Hamilton also spoke out and individually supported the UN Global Road Safety week initiative.

Also in 2007, the UN named Formula Three driver Basil Shaaban “UN World Youth Ambassador for Road Safety”. With this appointment, Shaaban, a Lebanese driver, took up “an effective social role in spreading awareness about the causes of fatal traffic accidents in the Arab world, most of which is result to over-speeding and recklessness on public roads.” Being that many Middle East nations are on the top of the list of accidents, Shaaban’s role, which he still holds, is especially relevant.

Despite worldwide participation and cooperation, one racing organization is conspicuously absent. A quick Google search reveals no evidence of cooperation between NASCAR and the UN in road safety initiatives. This even though NASCAR broadcasts races in over 150 countries.

Rather than attempting to figure why this hasn’t happened yet, here are two big reasons why working together on road safety would be beneficial for both NASCAR and the UN.

1) Global Reach for NASCAR -Although it’s American expansion is somewhat new compared to other sports, NASCAR has just about permeated the entire US market. Now that theyhave effectively courted the female American market with the arrival of Danica Patrick, the next step, of course, is looking to market and spread internationally. NASCAR would be wise to use the United Nations to promote NASCAR’s legitimacy to international fans. And it would also introduce NASCAR’s best personalities to people unfamiliar with the sport.

2) Exposure to Americans for the UN – A partnering with NASCAR would help improve the UN’s image in America. Although they do a lot of work throughout the world in various fields, the bottom line is that many Americans have a negative opinion of the UN and quite a few even support American withdrawal from the organization. Being seen with Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhart, Jr, and other racers could show the NASCAR demographic another side of the UN, possibly swaying opinion from”poor” to “good” or even “meh” – especially if the UN can effectively convey its message of road safety to the American audience.

Pairing NASCAR with the UN during the Decade of Action for Road Safety would not only be good business, it could also help reduce auto fatalities and accidents across the globe. And that would be worth a victory lap.

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