GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON EASING GLOBAL ROAD SAFETY CRISIS, WELCOMES RUSSIAN OFFER TO HOST RELATED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE IN 2009
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON EASING GLOBAL ROAD SAFETY CRISIS, WELCOMES RUSSIAN OFFER TO HOST RELATED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE IN 2009
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
87th Meeting (AM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON EASING GLOBAL ROAD SAFETY CRISIS,
WELCOMES RUSSIAN OFFER TO HOST RELATED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE IN 2009
Adopting a resolution aimed at alleviating the global road safety crisis, the General Assembly this morning welcomed the Russian Federation’s offer to host and provide financial support for the first global high-level conference on road safety, to be held next year.
Also by that text, which it adopted without a vote, the Assembly encouraged States to strengthen their commitments to road safety by observing the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims in December, organizing global road safety weeks and encouraging fleet-owning organizations in both the private and public sectors to develop and implement policies and practices that would reduce road-crash risks.
Oman’s representative, introducing the draft resolution, said the original text presented to the Assembly five years ago had been modest, but a year later, during the Assembly’s first debate on the issue, Member States had unanimously emphasized that road traffic injuries posed a global public health crisis requiring urgent national and international action.
He also introduced a report on global road safety, prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO), in consultation with the regional commissions and other partners of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration, saying it provided an update on efforts to implement Assembly recommendations, and described how collaborative efforts in the past two years had increased road safety awareness nationally and internationally.
Victor Kiryanov, Head of the Department of Road Safety in the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, said road safety was more important than ever and needed scrupulous international attention. Indeed, it was becoming an important item on the agenda of the United Nations and other international organizations. United Nations data showed that almost 1.2 million people died from road accidents and millions were injured or disabled every year.
Such injuries not only created socio-economic expenses for victims and their families, they also placed an onerous burden on public health services, he said. The annual costs associated with road traffic injuries worldwide amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars and continued to rise. It was vitally important to reduce the number of traffic injuries in order to achieve socio-economic development, including the Millennium Development Goals, and to allow ordinary people to feel safe and secure when on the road.
The Ministers for Transport of Costa Rica and Jamaica, as well as high-level Government transport and road safety officials from the United Kingdom and Mexico, also addressed the Assembly.
Other speakers were the representatives of Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Iceland, Viet Nam, Thailand, Ukraine, India, Kazakhstan, United States and Benin.
Also speaking were the Permanent Observer for the Holy See and a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Meeting this morning to consider the global road safety crisis, the General Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/62/257) transmitting a report on improving global road safety. The topic was placed on the Assembly’s agenda in 2003.
Prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO), in consultation with regional commissions and other partners of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration, the report provides an update on the status of implementation with respect to the Assembly’s recommendations. It also describes how collaborative efforts over the past two years have increased road safety awareness at both national and international levels, and how newly developed technical products could add to slowing the trend of increasing road traffic deaths, injuries and disabilities. The report makes recommendations for the implementation of interventions known to improve road safety at the national level.
Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution on improving global road safety (document A/62/L.43), by which the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of addressing global road safety issues and encourage States to strengthen commitments to road safety, including by annual observance, on the third Sunday in November, of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Also by that draft, the Road Safety Collaboration would be invited to promote multisectoral collaboration by organizing Global Road Safety Weeks, including the global Stakeholders’ Forums. Fleet-owning organizations in both the private and public sectors would be encouraged to develop and implement policies and practices that would reduce crash risks. In addition, the Assembly would welcome the offer by the Russian Federation to host and provide financial support for the first global high-level conference on road safety, in 2009. The Secretary-General would be requested to report again on the question at the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session.
Introduction of Report and Draft Resolution
FUAD AL-HINAI ( Oman), introducing the two documents, said the draft resolution presented to the Assembly five years ago had been modest. A year later, the Assembly had held its first debate on the issue and Members had been unanimous in emphasizing that road traffic injuries posed a global public health crisis requiring urgent action at the national and international levels. The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention had been jointly launched in 2004 by WHO and the World Bank. Last April, WHO and the Regional Commissions had organized the First UN Global Road Safety Week to serve as a platform for global, regional and national activities to raise awareness regarding road safety issues.
Outlining the activities that had emanated from the Week, he said his own country had enacted legislation to address road safety issues and had established a national road safety agency. It had also updated comprehensive regulations to meet the needs of those injured, including their rehabilitation, and created a registry to obtain detailed information on the consequences of injuries. The Royal Oman Police had organized and participated in the Gulf Cooperation Council Road Safety Week and the Arab Road Safety Week. Training programmes in such areas as first aid and defensive driving had been introduced for police, driving instructors, taxi drivers and public transportation drivers. Technical inspection stations had also been established to increase compliance with vehicle roadworthiness regulations.
VICTOR KIRYANOV, Head, Department of Road Safety, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the issue of road safety was now more important than ever and required the most scrupulous attention. Interaction in the road safety field had become one of the priority areas of international cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral levels, and was becoming an important item on the agenda of the United Nations and other international organizations.
United Nations data showed that, each year, nearly 1.2 million people died and millions were injured or disabled as a result of road accidents, he said. Besides the economic and social expenses for individuals and their families, road traffic injuries placed an onerous burden on public health services. Each year, the costs associated with road traffic injuries in the world amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars and they continued to increase. Reducing the number of traffic injuries was one of the necessary conditions for successful socio-economic development, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and, ultimately, for ordinary people to feel safe and secure when travelling by road -- a matter of concern for all road users, both drivers and pedestrians.
Noting that the problem was ultimately urgent for his country, he said the Russian Federation’s high accident rate was caused, in many respects, by the constantly growing mobility of the population, a shift from public to private transportation and a growing disproportion between rising numbers of automobiles and the development of the road network. That situation had led to a worsening of traffic conditions and the environment, congestion, an increase in fuel consumption and a growing number of accidents. The Government had adopted a special-purpose programme called “Improved Road Safety 2006-2012” and intensified activities in that area. All regions had adopted appropriate road safety programmes and increased their financing.
Pointing out that his country had traditionally been an active participant in multilateral interaction in the field of road safety, he said it was among those that had initiated the General Assembly’s regular consideration of how to overcome the global road safety crisis. The country had also been the first country to inform the international community about measures to implement the relevant resolution of the fifty-eighth General Assembly. The Russian Federation had decided to hold the first global high-level conference on road safety in 2009, jointly with others interested in international cooperation on road safety.
KARIA GONZALEZ, Minister for Transport and Public Transportation of Costa Rica, said road violence was unacceptable, adding that her country was well known for non-violence. Ending violence on the roads would be an even greater prize than the Nobel Peace Prize won by President Oscar Arias. Costa Rica was seeking good international advice and acting to tackle key risk factors, notably poorly designed roadways, drunk driving and excessive speeding. In 2003, legislators had changed the law on seat belt use and launched a campaign that spoke about road safety in language that people could understand. As a result, seat belt use had risen from 20 per cent to 80 per cent, which was better than the rates found in the United States and many European countries at that time. The rate of deaths caused by car accidents had fallen by 30 per cent.
During the past 10 years, Costa Rica’s bad roads had been neglected in terms of investment and the national budget for roads had been poor, she said. Now, for the first time, the Government had decided to invest all proceeds from fuel taxes into repairing and maintaining the 30,000-kilometre road network. It was difficult to maintain the upkeep of the vast system, particularly in light of the damage caused by heavy rainfall. On 8 May 2006, the Ministry had decreed an audit of all roads in terms of safety. Last year, Costa Rica had participated in the International Road Assessment Programme under which approximately 200,000 kilometres of roads where the greatest number of accidents occurred had been inspected to determine what could be done to fix them quickly and affordably. Simple measures like footpaths, safe crossing points and road barriers could save many lives. The report issued under that Programme assessed that Costa Rica had lost 2 per cent of its gross domestic product to road crashes and that road safety investments could pay back ten-fold or more.
LESTER MICHAEL HENRY, Minister for Transport and Works of Jamaica, said his country gave road safety priority attention and the Prime Minister had assumed the lead role as Chair of the National Road Safety Council, demonstrating the seriousness of the Government’s commitment to bringing attention to the issue at the highest level. In that arrangement, the Government, the private sector and academia collaborated with the singular purpose of establishing measures to enhance road safety. Without such political will, the problem would only spiral beyond control.
He said the multisectoral approach had resulted in a reduction of road traffic fatalities in 1999 from a high of 17.8 per 100,000 of the population to a low of 11.4 per 100,000, which at that time had compared favourably with many developed countries. Unfortunately, the fatality rate had risen again to unacceptable levels, peaking at 15.6 per 1,000,000 in 2002, but concerted efforts had resulted in a reduction to 12.1 per 100,000 in 2005. At the regional level, Jamaica participated in the Latin American and Caribbean Road Safety Forum, a non-governmental agency committed to advocacy and collaboration. It brought together Government representatives from the transportation, health, law enforcement and education sectors, while mobilizing relevant regional and international organizations with a view to greater collaboration in efforts to curtail, if not eliminate, the epidemic of death on the roadways.
Jamaica was aware of the additional burden caused by the social and economic costs of road traffic injuries, he said, noting that, in many middle- and low-income countries, they accounted for half of the hospital-bed occupancy in surgical wards. The worst affected were usually the poorer social groups, including many whose historical claims for just compensation were yet to be addressed. For youth aged 10 to 24 years, road traffic injuries had become the leading cause of death. Jamaica recommended the creation of a global motor vehicle safety standard to establish the minimum safety for vehicles manufactured anywhere in the world, and called for the granting of easier access to Jamaica and other countries in the region to the International Road Assessment Programme for purposes of risk mapping and tracking the safety performance of road networks. That would provide the protocols for measuring risk, setting benchmarks and utilising a start rating which would give protection to road users.
SANJA STIGLIC ( Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said traffic collisions had reached epidemic levels in many States and there was apparently widespread acceptance that they were an inevitable consequence of ever-increasing mobility. WHO had estimated in 2002 that almost 1.2 million people had died in road crashes worldwide and as many as 50 million had been injured. Failure to act could cause that number to double by 2020 and make road traffic injuries the third largest contributor to the global burden of disease and injury. However, attitudes were changing worldwide and road accident fatalities were no longer accepted as an inevitable corollary of increased mobility. The United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands had recorded dramatic reductions in road-casualty levels thanks to wide-ranging approaches to road safety policy with ambitious targets.
The European Union had issued a midterm review of the 2003 European Road Safety Action Programme, which aimed to halve the number of people killed in traffic collisions by 2010 as compared to 2001, she said. The Programme identified excessive speed, drunk-driving and the failure to use seat belts and motorcycle helmets as the main causes of and contributors to collisions. It also underlined the urgent need for legislation in that regard and gave European States an overview of the relevant information required to halve road-accident deaths. Further, the Programme provided the information needed to replicate the performance of States that had taken the lead in road safety policy. It also stressed the need to engage civil society in delivering better road safety and encouraged the public and private sector to sign a “Road Safety Charter”.
The European Union Road Safety Action Programme also emphasized the need to gather collision data and information relating to collision-prevention programmes, she said, adding that the European Road Safety Observatory would disseminate information on best practices in road safety. The European Union had also set 27 April 2007 as the first European Road Safety Day, during which young people had shared experiences, focusing on such subjects as alcohol and drugs in traffic, training and education. The second European Road Safety Day, to be held in Paris on 13 October, would address the subject of road safety in cities.
LORD ROBERTSON of Port of Ellen, Chairman of the Commission for Global Road Safety of the United Kingdom, said that, collectively, the world knew how to tackle the problem, which was solvable. The international community must act and the United Kingdom was pleased that the General Assembly supported the recommendations of the Commission for Global Road Safety contained in the report “Make Roads Safe”, to organize the first-ever United Nations Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. The United Kingdom also welcomed the Assembly’s recognition of the work of the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, and the need for road safety to become an integral element of road project design.
Paying tribute to Oman for leading the effort to secure a new United Nations resolution, he thanked the Russian Federation for offering to host the Ministerial Conference next year and for its leadership on global road safety issues. The effort against road traffic injuries would require both political will and public support. It was a challenge that the international community must face together, incorporating the rich and poor as well as the north and south. The United Nations Ministerial Conference would be an important milestone in that effort, providing a chance for Member States to come together and review progress, share knowledge and plan the way ahead.
ARTURO CERVENTES TREJO, General Director, National Centre on Accident Prevention of Mexico, said 17,000 Mexicans died every year in road traffic accidents, which were the leading killer of children, teenagers and young adults between the ages of five and 35. They caused more than 750,000 hospitalizations and many millions of injuries needing medical attention, and were the second leading cause of permanent motor disability. Motor vehicle accidents were on the rise, with official figures putting the increase at more than 45 per cent in the current decade. Road traffic injuries cost Mexico more than $10 billion annually, including $4.5 billion in medical care, $1.3 billion in material damages and $3.5 billion in lost productivity and income generation due to the deaths of economically active family members.
According to WHO and West Bank data, road traffic injuries were a true epidemic and the Latin American and Caribbean region had the highest road traffic fatality rates of any region in the world, he said. They cost, by conservative estimates, 1.5 per cent of the regional gross domestic product, due in part to increasing urbanization, the increasing availability and use of motor vehicles, the poor quality of roads, the absence of road safety education, the lack of sustainable mass transportation systems and the absence of adequate urban planning, among other factors. Eighty-five per cent of all road-related deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries and it was essential that all nations share knowledge, and pool their scientific, technical, human and economic resources to address the problem in a well-coordinated, global way, not only for economic purposes, but also for reasons of social justice.
On 14 March, 24 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region had signed the Merida Declaration, by which they had committed to recognize injuries as a public health problem and increase efforts to prevent them, he said. Further to that Declaration, they had pledged to develop, implement and evaluate national plans for injury prevention; foster strategic agreements and alliances, in addition to developing national policies to prevent injuries; strengthen or create units for injury prevention in health ministries with appropriate budgeting, staffing and authority; strengthen data collection efforts on injuries; improve health-care services for the injured; and foster the exchange of information and technical support between and among countries.
HJALMAR HANNESSON (Iceland), noting that road traffic injuries were the leading cause of death globally for those between the ages of 10 and 24, said that figure was comparable to death rates from malaria or tuberculosis. At the same time, the solution to the problem involved, to a large extent, raising awareness and persuading motorists to change their behaviour. The majority of road-accident fatalities in Iceland, unlike many other countries, did not occur in cities. The accident rate in built-up areas had declined significantly in recent years and more than 90 per cent of them now occurred in the countryside. An issue of concern was that actions to reduce the number of people severely injured in traffic accidents had failed to show results.
Studies confirmed that road accidents attributed to a number of key factors, including speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, failure to use seat belts and poor infrastructure, he said. In light of that, the Government had developed a four-year traffic safety plan for the period 2007-2010, which Parliament had adopted in 2007 as part of the general transport policy. Its main aim was to take action against driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other substances, speeding and the non-use of seat belts, as well as introducing measures to improve road infrastructure.
Iceland had effectively implemented the United Nations Global Road Safety Week, 23-29 April 2007, with a variety of programmes, he said, adding that there had been a sharp decline in road traffic accidents during that week compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. The same trend had followed the subsequent weeks, a success that was due mainly to successful collaboration between interested parties, such as the Government, the police, non-governmental organizations, local authorities and the media. However, there was a need to intensify international efforts to raise awareness about global road safety. Iceland therefore welcomed the Russian Federation’s offer to host the first Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety in 2009.
BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) expressed alarm over the “Improving Global Road Safety” report’s assessment that road traffic injuries continued to be a major health problem and the leading cause of death, injury and disability worldwide, with almost 1.2 million people dying and millions more suffering injury every year. They represented a threat to the hard-earned development achievements of many countries, with the annual cost of road crashes in low- and middle-income countries estimated at between $65 billion and $100 billion annually, which was more than the total annual amount they received in development aid. Rational measures and counter-analysis could largely have prevented and controlled such crashes.
Road traffic accidents had risen sharply in Viet Nam due to the rapid increase in vehicles and poor observance of traffic safety legislation, he said. According to an Asian Development Bank study, accidents in 2002 and 2003 had cost the country close to $900 million annually. Deeply conscious of their tremendous consequences, and of the links between road safety and sustainable development, the Government had launched the 2001-2010 National Strategy Plan for Traffic Safety Improvement. It aimed to upgrade the transport infrastructure system, develop a legal system to ensure traffic safety, establish a traffic accident database, create educational and communication campaigns, involve all governmental organizations and civil society in vehicle safety inspection systems, and carry out strict enforcement measures.
Furthermore, the Government had set up mechanisms to provide incentives for good road-safety practices and penalize violations, he said. It had also created the National Traffic Safety Committee to lead and coordinate the implementation of national road safety plans among various ministries and localities. Last year, Viet Nam had observed the first United Nations Global Road Safety Week. The Government had launched an education campaign to encourage motorcycle riders to wear helmets and, as of 15 December 2007, it had made the wearing of helmets mandatory.
SANSANEE SAHUSSARUNGSI ( Thailand) agreed that the 2009 Road Safety Conference would raise the international community’s attention to the new heights that the crisis deserved as an epidemic on a comparable scale with malaria and tuberculosis through its causing of more than 1.2 million deaths a year and 50 million injuries. Road crashes were now the leading cause of death worldwide for children and young people between the ages of 10 and 24. Alarmingly, more than half the number of road traffic casualties were in the 15-44 age set, the key wage-earning and child-rearing group. For low-income and middle-income countries, the annual cost of road traffic crashes was estimated at between $65 and $100 billion.
Outlining the steps her country had taken to improve road safety under the Road Safety Operation Centre established in 2003, she said Thailand’s strategy encompassed the five “E’s”: enforcement of law; engineering for improved roads; education and participation; emergency services; and evaluation. As a result, the number of deaths from road injuries had dropped from more than 14,000 in 2003 to under 12,500 in 2007. Thailand also participated in regional and global road safety events. Since the lack of financial resources was a major obstacle hindering many countries from improving road safety, Thailand welcomed the progress made in setting up the World Bank’s 2006 Global Road Safety Facility.
ANDRIY NIKITOV ( Ukraine) said the rapid industrial development of the last decades and the development of the engineering industry had resulted in the constant growth of the world’s stock of cars. While the positive effect of that process on the development of society was indisputable, it also brought a substantial level of danger. The possibility of human and material losses due to accidents was rising as the use of different means of transportation broadened. Deaths from car accidents and road traffic injuries constituted a significant and increasing threat to the health of the world population.
Until now, road safety had not been part of the Millennium Declaration and was often not included in sustainable economic development programmes, he noted. There were obvious obstacles to achieving road traffic safety regimes, including low technical capacity in many countries and lack of qualified specialists, which slowed the development and introduction of effective road safety strategies and programmes. As a result, global road safety problems were often missing from priority public health issues. Limited investment in road infrastructure also contributed to the increase in the number of deaths and injuries caused by road accidents. The development of road infrastructure could ensure wider employment opportunities, staff training, improvements in public health and greater foreign investment.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said road traffic on his country’s more than 3.3 million-kilometre road network, one of the largest in the world, had been increasing by more than 10 per cent annually since 2000. National highways made up only 2 per cent of the network, but carried 40 per cent of the total road traffic, resulting in heavy traffic density. Due in part to those factors, more than 90,000 Indians died from road traffic injuries every year. Conscious of the serious development and national health impact of road accidents, India had been working actively to enhance road safety and reduce the adverse consequences of accidents. It had already followed the WHO recommendation to create a lead agency for road safety issues -- the Department of Road Transport and Highways, which formulated road safety policies -– and had also created a National Policy on Road Safety in addition to implementing an Annual Road Safety Plan. India collected and analyzed road accident statistics and took steps to further develop a road safety culture by organizing awareness campaigns in collaboration with civil society.
Engineering, enforcement and education were three aspects of road safety on which India was taking action, he said. The country had signed the 1998 Agreement of the World Forum for harmonization of vehicle regulations in order to adopt international best practices in motor vehicle safety. Smart card-based driving licences and vehicle registration certificates were being issued in many parts of the country, while old laws and regulations were being reviewed and updated. Extensive public awareness campaigns, involving non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, were organized periodically, as were annual road safety weeks with such themes as “Drive to care! Not to dare!” While many road safety issues were best tackled by national and local authorities, the WHO report correctly highlighted the importance of international cooperation, particularly to help developing countries –- the most affected by road accidents -- with capacity-building, technical assistance, the exchange of best practices, advocacy and awareness-raising. Financing to assist developing countries was also crucial. While the WHO report identified some funding facilities, they were far from adequate to address the magnitude of the problem. Country programme support must be urgently scaled up. India called for an international conference on global road safety, under United Nations auspices, to enhance international cooperation, and lauded the Russian Federation for offering to host the first Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety next year.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) expressed concern that traffic-related injuries were leading to deaths among the most productive age group. Statistics showing more than a million deaths and 50 million injuries a year made it reasonable to contemplate the problem at the same level as HIV/AIDS and armed conflict. Despite the threatening statistics, however, there was a solution to the problem, such as the allocation of more resources to improve infrastructure, and interventions that required only governmental commitment, including legislation on personal responsibility for safe driving.
Kazakhstan shared the global concern about road safety, she said, adding that the country’s statistics were alarming. In 2007, almost 24,000 people had fallen victim to traffic accidents. Almost 4,500 people died and about 19,000 had been injured. All five risks factors reflected in the draft resolution contributed to those statistics. In response, the President had identified the development of road infrastructure and the introduction of world road standards as priority goals. The Government had recently endorsed a National Transportation Strategy for the period 2006-2015, which included a budget allocation of $26 billion to improve the road infrastructure.
She said her country was also undertaking measures to combat the negative consequences of road accidents, including legislation to strengthen accountability for non-safe driving and parliamentary revision to improve the emergency care system. The country had also established partnerships with such organizations as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the European Commission, so that it could learn from their successful experiences and best practices.
Ms. CARTER-FOSTER ( United States) said 1.2 million people worldwide, more than 3,000 daily, died on the roads, a toll comparable to that of malaria or tuberculosis, while 30 million to 50 million were left injured or disabled. Most of those deaths occurred in developing countries, where the losses took a significant toll on family and national incomes, reduced gross domestic product by 1 per cent or more and exceeded funds received in development assistance. Losses due to road traffic injuries were preventable and should not be accepted as the price for mobility or economic growth and development.
Expressing support for the draft resolution calling for a global road safety conference, she stressed the need to raise global awareness and create an international dialogue on specific actions that all nations could take in order to minimize accidents. The United States was doing its part and had learned much over the years regarding human and technological advances towards reducing road injuries and deaths, but still 43,000 people died from road accidents every year. The United States was willing to share the lessons it had learned about effective prevention.
Warning that reducing road traffic deaths would not come easily or quickly, she said it had taken her country decades to curb rising motor vehicle deaths which had peaked in the late 1960s. It had taken time to build safer roads and cars, and to educate and train drivers and pedestrians. Government agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the State Department and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention had worked to advance the progress of global road safety efforts and civil society had also contributed by supporting them. Road safety impacted health, commerce, transportation and trade. It was an important economic development issue as well as a global safety concern.
JEAN-FRANCIS ZINSOU ( Benin), expressing concern about the high rate of road traffic injuries, said that, in many cases, the increased risk was due to human error. Economic factors also played a role in countries like Benin, where lack of income meant many vehicles were over-used and not maintained properly. The chances of surviving serious accidents were almost nil due to the long distances from hospitals and the inadequacy of rapid-response services on the ground. In addition, those living near major roads were often killed by vehicles in transit.
He said his country had put in place a national development strategy that encompassed improving roads and road-safety management. Benin sought to strengthen environmental management as part of the improved management of risk factors for traffic injuries. It welcomed United Nations action on road safety and hoped it would help ensure a reduction in the risks faced by road users. Attention must be paid to the need for greater investment to improve emergency services. Policies to improve safety in developing countries were of crucial importance.
Welcoming the establishment of the World Bank Fund for road safety, he said its financing should be a matter for discussion at the international level. Benin supported the draft resolution under consideration and hoped its adoption and implementation would provide assurance that the conference to be held in the Russian Federation would be a success.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said road safety impacted not only those in the developed world, but all people, regardless of geographic location or economic status. Unfortunately, the global increase in movement had been accompanied by a sad rise in vehicle-related accidents, causing property damage, injuries and death. The fact that more than 3,000 people died every day, and that a traffic-related injury occurred every six seconds, demonstrated the need for greater road safety worldwide. That meant adopting proactive road-safety measures locally, nationally and internationally so that increasing human mobility should not come at the expense of human life itself. However, such measures could only be effective if backed by the necessary political, social and economic capital.
While technical measures were needed to address road safety, the focus must also be on the human factor of road safety, he said. People were prone to blame traffic accidents on poor infrastructure, equipment or road conditions. But data showed that an overwhelming majority of vehicular accidents and deaths were linked directly to driver behaviour, such as excessive speed, aggressive driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and various forms of distraction. Drivers and pedestrians alike should observe road safety rules and exercise due concern and care for others on the road. The Holy See had constantly sought to educate drivers and other road users about their obligations and moral responsibilities, calling on them to respect traffic rules, observe speed limits, wear seat belts, avoid alcohol and take road-safety precautions.
MICHAEL SCHULZ, representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), noted that those countries that had managed to lower mortality from road traffic injuries had all done so by implementing measures described in the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, produced jointly by WHO and the World Bank in April 2004. The main measures were the creation of a lead agency responsible for guiding national road safety efforts; rapid improvement of road crash statistics; and action to overcome major risk factors, including the non-use of seat belts or helmets, speeding and drunk driving.
That guide would help the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as the wider civil society, in their work with Governments to scale up efforts to further improve road safety, he said. It had been jointly produced with the Global Road Safety Partnership, which was based at the IFRC secretariat in Geneva. Following the publication of the guide, IFRC was now moving towards a second phase with the Global Road Safety Partnership involving regional workshops around the world. The first, to be held in Doha, Qatar, in mid-2008, would emphasize the special contribution that national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies could make as auxiliaries to public authorities. International advocacy for road safety had been making progress since 2004 but, with rare exceptions, donor countries did not include safety in their international strategies for development cooperation, even though it was considered a priority challenge at home. Thus, there was room for change. Often the first to arrive at accident scenes, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers wanted Governments to take the magnitude of the road-safety crisis seriously and join in partnerships to reverse the deadly trend.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Assembly, acting without a vote, then adopted the draft resolution on improving global road safety (document A/62/L.43).
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