This year, the world’s roads have claimed some 1.2 million lives. Added to the fatalities are the more than 50 million people injured each year – many of them now condemned to enduring physical disabilities and psychological trauma for the rest of their days.
Around 90 per cent of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries. Most of the victims are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. The World Health Organization warns that, without urgent action, road traffic injuries will become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.
Eighteen months ago, governments agreed to a Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020, with a pledge to save 5 million lives by implementing road safety strategies and information campaigns and enhancing and enforcing legislation. Governments are acting. Chilean law now requires people travelling on inter-city buses to wear seatbelts. China has criminalized drinking and driving and increased penalties for offenders, and New Zealand has introduced stricter controls on alcohol for younger drivers.
Existing legislation is also being more vigorously enforced. Police in Brazil are now much stricter on drinking and driving. Seatbelt use in Turkey has increased from 8 to 50 per cent and, in Viet Nam, motorcycle helmet use has tripled from 30 to 90 per cent. Other countries, including Ghana, India, Mozambique and Pakistan, are improving care for people who have suffered road traffic injuries. All these efforts are saving lives.
Earlier this year, the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development emphasized the importance of safe roads. On this World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, let us commit to minimizing road traffic deaths and injuries as part of our quest for an equitable and sustainable future.