2 March 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by World Health Organization on Decade of Action for Road Safety

 


Calling the Decade of Action for Road Safety scheduled to be proclaimed today by the General Assembly “long overdue”, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) pledged concerted action to halt the increasing trend of road-traffic deaths seen over the last few decades and ensure that between 2011 and 2020, the trend would be reversed.


“These are not just going to be words on paper in a nice bureaucratic UN resolution,” said Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability of the World Health Organization, which heads up a global consortium seeking to improve road safety around the world.  “We have a plan of action.  We know what needs to be done.”


He said 1.3 million people die around the world every year from road traffic crashes, with half of those killed comprised of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists ‑‑ people who can’t afford a car.  An additional 20 million to 50 million are injured every year, with a large proportion of the victims leaving with a lifelong disability.


He said that, according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety issued last year, only 15 per cent of countries had the right legislation in place to address the key risk factors such as drunk driving, excessive speed and the non-use of seat belts and motorcycle helmets.  Moreover, low- and middle-income countries ‑‑ which suffered from 90 per cent of the world’s road traffic fatalities ‑‑ were paying a high price for their development.


Intended as a catalyst for bringing together the energy of international and national players and increase action, the proclamation was the result, he said, of efforts from a large number of agencies over several years to draw attention to the important public health problem of road crashes.  It was initially called for at the first ever Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, which was held in Moscow in November 2009.


He envisioned five areas where action should concentrate.  First, in road safety management, every country needed to establish a lead agency, as well as a good data-collection mechanism.  Second, road safety needed direct improvement through the construction of better road infrastructure.  Third, to ensure vehicle safety, new vehicles should be up to standard and vehicles sold in low- and middle-income countries should have minimum safety features, such as seatbelts.


Work was also needed, he said, to shift the behaviour of road users, particularly in terms of decreasing drunk driving and excessive speeding and increasing the use of helmets and seatbelts.  Finally, trauma care should be enhanced to ensure that those who were injured on the road survived with the least number of consequences.


He said work would be collaborative among non-governmental organizations, representatives of road traffic crash victims and other agencies in the United Nations system, such as the regional commissions, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as Governments.  They hoped to monitor progress in the five key areas through global status reports and hoped to have midterm and final review conferences during the Decade.


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For information media • not an official record