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Motorsport boss Todt wants road deaths to be seen as ‘pandemic’

The head of Formula One’s ruling body, Jean Todt, said Friday he was lobbying the rich and powerful to support his mission to have road accident deaths considered a “pandemic”.

Speaking to AFP at the annual gathering of policymakers and business moguls at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Todt said: “We need to get some visibility of this problem.”

Around 1.25 million people are killed in road accidents each year, costing national governments more than $500 billion (465 billion euros).

The solution, the Frenchman said, can come through technology — cars in Europe have for years been equipped with ABS braking and other gadgets, which have helped reduce deaths.

“But the problem is that very few people in the developing world have access to those measures,” said Todt, the head of the sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA).

“The average age of a car in Europe is nine years. In the developing world it is 30 to 60 years.

“Some countries have never heard about seatbelts — so we have a two-speed world.

“Human behaviour is responsible for 90 percent of road fatalities.

“I want people and governments to take this issue seriously and see it as pandemic, like a health issue.”

The safety campaign he is fronting promotes simple measures — including better education of the dangers of the road and urging drivers to wear a seatbelt or a helmet for two-wheeled transport. They are also told not to drink and drive and to keep a careful eye on their speed.

Todt presented Pope Francis with the campaign’s poster this month.

The 69-year-old Frenchman said he can see the irony of a man who oversees the high-speed world of Formula One and used to lead the phenomenally successful Ferrari team promoting a road safety initiative.

But he said: “I consider myself a fortunate guy and I have a voice and a certain credibility. It is time for me to give something back.”