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World unites to halt death and injury on roads

Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 set to save millions of lives

News release

On 11 May, dozens of countries around the world kick off the first global Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. From New Zealand to Mexico and the Russian Federation to South Africa, governments are committing to take new steps to save lives on their roads. The Decade seeks to prevent road traffic deaths and injuries which experts project will take the lives of 1.9 million people annually by 2020.

To mark the launch of the Decade, governments in countries such as Australia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, the Philippines, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam will host high-profile events and release national plans to improve safety and services for victims. A number of landmark national monuments will be illuminated with the road safety "tag", the new symbol for the Decade. These include Times Square in New York City; Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro; Trafalgar Square in London; and the Jet d'Eau in Geneva, among others.

Curbing a growing health and development problem

"Today countries and communities are taking action vital to saving lives on our streets and highways" said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "Road traffic crashes are a growing health and development concern affecting all nations, and the Decade offers a framework for an intensified response."

Road traffic injuries have become the leading killer of young people aged 15–29 years. Almost 1.3 million people die each year on the world's roads, making this the ninth leading cause of death globally. In addition to these deaths, road crashes cause between 20 million and 50 million non-fatal injuries every year. In many countries, emergency care and other support services for road traffic victims are inadequate. These avoidable injuries overload already stretched health services.

Global plan to improve the safety of roads and vehicles

"None of us should have to bear the grief and devastation caused by a road traffic crash" said Dr Etienne Krug, WHO Director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability. "The steps outlined in the Global Plan for the Decade are immediately doable, and will do much to spare the suffering of so many."

The Global Plan outlines steps towards improving the safety of roads and vehicles; enhancing emergency services; and building up road safety management generally. It also calls for increased legislation and enforcement on using helmets, seat-belts and child restraints and avoiding drinking and driving and speeding. Today only 15% of countries have comprehensive laws which address all of these factors.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists collectively represent almost half of those killed on the world's roads. Most of the progress has been made in the last few decades has been towards protecting people in cars. The Global Plan suggests measures that may afford these vulnerable groups protection – such as building cycle and foot-paths and separate motorcycle lanes or improving access to safe public transport.

If successfully implemented, the Global Plan's activities could save 5 million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries over the course of the Decade. The Decade also aims at attracting donor funding to this issue. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already committed US$ 125 million to support road safety in low-income and middle-income countries, by far the largest single donation to road safety. But other innovative funding mechanisms are being sought. For example, a voluntary "opt-out" scheme within the automotive sectors, in which US$ 2 per new vehicle sold would go into a fund to support road safety in developing nations could raise at least US$ 140 million a year.

WHO's role in the Decade of Action for Road Safety

WHO will play a role in coordinating global efforts over the Decade and will monitor progress towards achieving the objectives of the Decade at the national and international levels. WHO will also continue to provide technical support to national road safety initiatives aimed at decreasing drinking and driving and speeding; increasing the use of helmets, seat-belts and child restraints; and improving emergency care.

For more information, please contact:

Laura Sminkey
Communications officer, Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability
WHO
Telephone: + 41 22 791 4547
Mobile: + 41 79 249 3520
E-mail: sminkeyl@who.int

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