2 March 2010
Press Conference

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

Press Conference on General Assembly Draft Resolution on Global Road Safety Crisis


The United Nations had agreed that 2011-2020 would be the global Decade of Action for Road Safety, a panel of international partners working towards that goal said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“Today has been a truly historic day,” said Viktor Kiryanov, Chief Road Traffic Safety Inspector of the Russian Federation, original sponsor of the General Assembly resolution adopted just minutes before the press conference.  Today’s action was the coming to fruition of efforts, beginning in 2003, to reduce the deadly toll of 1.3 million lives lost yearly on the world’s roads, the suffering of tens of millions more who had been disabled and the economic cost of up to $100 billion annually to developing countries alone.

He said that the Programme of Action for the international Decade had been adopted during a 2009 conference on the road safety crisis, held in Moscow.  By the time it had reached the General Assembly this afternoon, the Decade had gained some 100 additional sponsoring countries, he added.

Joining Mr. Kiryanov at the press conference were Etienne Krug, Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, David Ward, Director of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Road Safety Foundation, and actress Michelle Yeoh, spokesperson for the “Make Roads Safe” campaign, who represented her native Malaysia as the Assembly adopted the resolution.

Mr. Kiryanov said the Programme of Action would strive to improve road infrastructure, train drivers, address driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and get all road users –- including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists –- to follow road-safety rules.

He said the Russian Federation had responded to the problem of dangerous roads by enacting a safety programme for the period 2006-2012, and had stabilized the situation, even witnessing a 12 per cent decline in road fatalities in the past year over the base year.  That was a highly significant figure because the number of cars was rapidly increasing, with the country’s roads now carrying more than 800,000 vehicles, he noted, expressing hope that the resolution would focus greater attention on the problem, both in the Russian Federation and internationally, in terms of funding and enhancing accountability.

Dr. Krug, whose agency heads a global consortium seeking to improve road safety around the world, thanked the Russian Federation for its leadership in providing one of the largest global public health problems, pointing out that 90 per cent of people dying or injured on roads lived in middle- or lower-income countries, and that half of the fatalities were pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

He said the Decade would encourage better management of road-safety policy, safer road engineering and vehicles, as well as better road-user behaviour, including by preventing the practice of driving while alcohol- or dug-impaired and promoting universal use of helmets and seat belts.  It would also help to improve crash response and trauma care, he added.

Mr. Ward of the FIA Foundation -- established in 2001 with a $300 million donation from the non-profit federation governing motoring organizations and world motor sport -- said that getting to the present point was like reaching the top of a huge mountain.  It was also “a little daunting” because it was now crucial to make the Decade work, he added, expressing confidence, however, that the Foundation could make a structured contribution in all priority areas, given the 10-year focus.

Ms. Yeoh said the Assembly’s action had moved the issue out of the darkness and world leaders were now committed to making it a priority.  Everyone in the world, not only children, would benefit, she added.

In response to questions, Mr. Kiryanov confirmed that distracted driving, due to cell phone use and other factors, was a growing challenge that would be addressed during the Decade, adding that international cooperation would help improve road safety by creating a priority at the highest levels and encouraging countries to exchange best practices.

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