|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
82nd Meeting (AM)
Traffic Accidents Take Toll on Social, Economic Progress, General Assembly
Agrees, Adopting Resolution Improving Road Safety
Deaths and injuries in road traffic accidents posed a serious threat to global health and had a negative impact on social and economic progress, as well as sustainable development, the General Assembly heard today.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Improving global road safety” (document A/68/L.40). It encouraged Member States and the international community to take road safety into consideration in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, while recognizing the importance of a holistic and integrated approach to sustainable transport.
The text encouraged Member States that had not developed national plans in line with the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety to do so, paying special attention to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. It also encouraged States to enact comprehensive legislation on key risk factors for road traffic injuries.
Victor Kiryanov, Deputy Minister for Interior of the Russian Federation, introduced the resolution, saying road safety remained among the most pressing present-day issues. Measures by the international community had reduced road traffic injuries. Over the last few years the world had witnessed a downward trend in the number of accidents and continued cooperation would prevent thousands of fatalities. Ensuring road safety was an important factor in the implementation of the international development goals. It was hoped that universal access to safe, affordable and environmentally sound transport would be recognized as one of the priorities of the post-2015 global development agenda.
Mr. Kiryanov said the resolution reflected the progress achieved by the international community on road safety and aimed to strengthen multilateral cooperation to reduce the level of injuries caused by traffic accidents, which was considered a challenge for public health. The resolution called upon Member States to tackle the problems through comprehensive approaches, including the introduction of efficient road safety management systems, inter-agency cooperation and the elaboration of public strategies based on the Global Plan. The resolution encouraged the World Health Organization and United Nations regional commissions to further support efforts to achieve the goals of the Plan.
Michelle Yeoh, Global Ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign, said the Decade of Action had raised the profile of road safety, motivated more countries to establish strategic plans and encouraged new initiatives. From 2009 to 2013, there was a marked reduction in the fatality index per 10,000 registered vehicles in Malaysia, from 3.55 to 2.90. The Government actively cooperated with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the public at large to contribute toward road safety initiatives. Recognizing the importance of public engagement, Malaysia requested feedback from those groups before formulating new road safety policies. However, the world must do more. Safe mobility was something that everyone should expect, irrespective of their financial status or where they lived. Much like clean water and education, everyone should have access to safe roads.
Lord Robertson of the United Kingdom said that since the launch of the Decade of Action, many countries had redoubled their efforts to prevent traffic injuries, including the implementation of new national road safety strategies. However, the international community had not come as far as many had hoped. The world had not seen the levels of international cooperation and resourcing that would be needed to reach the Plan’s safety objectives. The mid-Decade conference in Brazil would present an opportunity to refocus on global road safety efforts and ensure that momentum would not be lost. His country continued to take a tough approach to enforcing road safety laws and internationally supported efforts in that regard through funding to World Bank projects. By year’s end, the world needed to see renewed political will and financing dedicated to road safety.
Amer Hial Al-Hajri ( Oman) said the international community must shed light on the tragedy of traffic causalities and build safer roads through capacity-building and cooperation. Road safety was an important item on the United Nations agenda and the international community accorded importance to cooperation with all relevant organizations to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on the roads. Oman had established a committee on road safety that resulted in a unified, comprehensive strategy that would reduce road accidents. His country also periodically reviewed traffic statistics, using that information to develop and disseminate awareness-raising brochures and films to educate the population.
Jeremiah Nyamane KingsleyMamabolo ( South Africa) said that road accident injuries were a major public health concern that had a broad range of social and economic consequences, placing strain on national health systems. South Africa had adopted a National Road Safety Act in 1996 that regulated road usage and promoted safety. In 1997, his country launched the Arrive Alive Road Safety Campaign to reduce the carnage on the roads. It had resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of deaths from accidents and sharpened the response of law enforcement agencies and health services.
Felipe Rodríguez Laguens ( Argentina) said that since his country had established its road safety agency, there had been a 14 per cent reduction in the number of causalities for every 100,000 inhabitants and a 50 per cent reduction in the number of accidents for every 10,000 registered vehicles. All policies applied at the national level had been developed in conjunction with civil society organizations. The resolution included greater emphasis on road safety in the short term, including the establishment of national road safety institutions.
Rabee Jawhara ( Syria) said improvements in road safety required a commitment from developed countries to help developing countries through capacity-building activities and technology transfer. His country collected data on traffic safety and established an administrative system in cooperation with civil society organizations that would increase awareness of traffic rules and standards. Despite those efforts, Syria experienced many challenges, including the continuation of unilateral economic measures that targeted specific transport sectors. Terrorist activities that targeted transport infrastructure had also left many dead and injured, while severely damaging the country’s transport systems.
Florian Botto ( Monaco) said that in most accidents it was the driver who was at fault. As such, it was imperative to step up protection measures for the most vulnerable, including motorcyclists and pedestrians. Given the sobering statistics, Monaco had initiated specific campaigns to address the safety of those who were on two-wheeled vehicles. The installation of speed cameras and school education campaigns were other segments of Monaco’s road safety initiatives.
Samantha Power ( United States) said that 1.2 million people died on roads every year, although many of those deaths could have been prevented. Driver behaviour was a critical point that needed to be addressed; including excessive speed, alcohol use and failure to obey traffic rules. However, a new threat was emerging — driving while texting or talking on the phone — which required immediate attention. The latest statistics indicated that more teenagers were killed in the United States because of texting behind the wheel, than drinking. Such concerns were not solely applicable to developed countries given the spread of new technologies to the developing world.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota ( Brazil) said his country was pleased to host the next Global Road Safety Conference in 2015, which would be a critical moment for road safety efforts. The current rate of accidents was unacceptable and among the most pressing health challenges. Road traffic accidents claimed the lives of millions and could become the sixth leading causes of death worldwide if immediate steps were not taken. Road safety was a universal concern and global challenge faced by all countries. Children tended to be disproportionately affected due to the loss of parents and caregivers. More needed to be done to protect motorcyclists and pedestrians, which constituted highly vulnerable groups.
Courtenay Rattray ( Jamaica) said his delegation believed more needed to be done to address road safety holistically. Experience had taught his country about the critical importance of employing multisectoral collaboration to address the epidemic of traffic injuries and deaths. Such injuries were the number one killer of young people 15-29 years old, worldwide. The global community could not afford to let the epidemic get worse and sustained action and attention was required at all levels to accelerate progress toward achieving the target of reducing road fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020. Jamaica believed that combating road traffic injuries should be included in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Gréta Gunnarsdóttir (Iceland) reported that her country’s road safety plan had been in place since 2005 and that progress was evident. The most effective measures to date included legislative action targeted at young drivers, enforcement of speed limits, road risk mapping and prevention campaigns, including against the use of mobile phones while driving. There needed to be a greater focus on the victims of traffic accidents, who were often left with serious, long-lasting injuries. Of particular concern for Iceland were spinal cord injuries, given that half of all spinal cord injuries worldwide were due to traffic accidents.
David Yitshak Roet ( Israel) said that the number of road accidents and resulting injuries and deaths were nothing short of an epidemic. Most were preventable, yet only 28 countries were protected by comprehensive traffic safety laws. In addition to the safety benefits, implementing the pillars of the Global Plan would reduce road congestion, increase productivity, decrease transport time and reduce pollution. Although those benefits were secondary to the importance of saving lives, they highlighted the fact that Governments could not afford to implement the necessary measures. Israel’s road safety authority and its partners increased safety through a holistic approach. Those efforts resulted in a 60 per cent drop in the number of young drivers killed in road accidents between 2006 and 2012.
Christophe Lobry-Boulanger of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the global financial cost of road traffic injuries was $518 billion dollars annually. It was estimated that approximately 85 per cent of road crash deaths happened in low- and middle-income countries, costing them between 2 and 3 per cent of their gross domestic product. That economic cost, combined with the social and human cost was unacceptable, particularly as many of those tragedies were preventable.
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