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UN joins efforts to improve road safety

UN joins efforts to improve road safety

Responding to the staggering number of deaths and injuries caused by traffic collisions, government representatives from around the world joined top United Nations health officials today in London in a joint effort to improve road safety.

The conference, hosted by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), will focus attention on the trend of rising road traffic injuries. Participants, including Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), ministers from several countries and road safety experts, will review proven strategies for reducing road traffic injuries, which claimed over 1.2 million lives in 2000 alone.

In addition to escalating death rates, injuries due to collisions are a major drain on health care resources. Data show that in some countries, a crash victim occupies one in 10 hospital beds.

“The human suffering for victims of traffic-related injuries and their families is incalculable,” said Dr. Brundtland. “In strict economic terms, the costs associated with surgery, prolonged hospitalization and long-term rehabilitation for such victims, in addition to their lost productivity, represent tens of billions of dollars each year.”

The majority of the victims of these incidents are people who will never be able to afford a car: pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transportation. Although car ownership is greater in industrialized than developing countries, studies show that in 2000, 90 per cent of all traffic fatalities occurred in low- and middle- income societies.

Looking ahead, the WHO Director-General has decided to mark World Health Day 2004 under the theme “Safe Roads” creating an opportunity to draw the general public’s attention to the growing but preventable problem of road traffic injuries. WHO and the World Bank are expected to launch a report on preventing road traffic injuries.