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The United Nations and Road Safety

Background

The economic, social and health losses resulting from road traffic injuries are not inevitable. There is substantial evidence confirming that road traffic injuries can be prevented. Experience from around the world has identified that the creation of an adequately funded lead agency on road safety and an accurate assessment of a country’s road safety situation are important steps that need to be taken to effectively tackle road traffic injuries. A number of factors have been identified as increasing the risk of traffic-related injuries, including inappropriate and excess speed, non-use of seat belts and child restraints, drinking and driving, non-use of helmets by riders of motorized two-wheelers, poorly designed or insufficiently maintained road infrastructure and vehicles that are old, not well maintained or that lack safety features. Regulatory and other actions that address those risk factors have led to dramatic decreases in road crashes in many countries. The provision of emergency trauma care services has also been shown to be important in mitigating the negative impacts of road traffic crashes.

Over the past four or more decades, many regional and global road safety initiatives have been implemented. On World Health Day 2004, publication of the World Health Organization/World Bank World Report On Road Traffic Injury Prevention helped catalyse action. The report stresses the role of many sectors in the prevention of road traffic injuries and describes the fundamental concepts of road traffic injury prevention, the magnitude and impact of road traffic injuries, the major determinants and risk factors and effective intervention strategies. As such, it serves as both an advocacy tool and a technical document containing six major recommendations on what countries can do to address the problem of road traffic injuries.

Following publication of the World Report in April 2004, the United Nations adopted resolution 58/289, sponsored by Oman and entitled “Improving global road safety”, which recognized the need for the United Nations system to support efforts to address the global road safety crisis. In the resolution, the General Assembly invited the World Health Organization (WHO), working in close cooperation with the regional commissions, to act as a coordinator on road safety issues within the United Nations system. It also underlined the need for the further strengthening of international cooperation, taking into account the needs of developing countries, to deal with issues of road safety.

In May 2004, the World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA 57.10, in which it accepted the General Assembly invitation for WHO to act as the coordinator on road safety issues. In the resolution on road safety and health, Member States were also called upon to prioritize road safety as a public health issue and to take steps to implement measures known to be effective in reducing road traffic injuries.

In October 2005, the General Assembly adopted resolution 60/5, in which it underlined the importance for Member States to pay particular attention to road traffic injury prevention. In the resolution, the Assembly invited the regional commissions and WHO to organize jointly the first United Nations Global Road Safety Week and invited Member States and the international community, to recognize the third Sunday in November of every year as the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

On 31 March 2008, the General Assembly adopted resolution 62/244 entitled “Improving global road safety”, the third major resolution on the issue, in which it reaffirmed the importance of addressing global road safety issues and the need to further strengthen international cooperation and knowledge-sharing in road safety and increase related financial support, taking into account the needs of developing countries. In the resolution, the Assembly also welcomed the offer by the Government of the Russian Federation to host the first global high-level (ministerial) conference on road safety in 2009. In the resolution, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report to it at its sixty-fourth session on progress made in improving global road safety.

Member States have taken a large number of measures to strengthen legislation, improve data collection and develop national and local road safety strategies and programmes.

On 10 May 2010, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/64/255 with which it proclaimed the period 2011–2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with a goal to stabilize and then reduce the forecast level of road traffic fatalities around the world by increasing activities conducted at the national, regional and global levels.