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UN to prepare manuals to tackle huge human and economic costs of traffic accidents

UN to prepare manuals to tackle huge human and economic costs of traffic accidents

With road accidents killing 1.2 million people worldwide every year, injuring up to 50 million more and racking up $518 billion in costs and losses, the United Nations health agency is preparing a series of manuals on counter-steps, including laws, enforcement, and information sharing on the use of seat-belts, helmets and child restraints.

“In a split second, a traffic crash transforms forever the life of a family,” the Director of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, Etienne Krug, said in a statement marking World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims – the third Sunday of November each year.

“Behind each statistic, there are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandchildren, colleagues, classmates and friends. For every death or injury, there are scores of people who must cope with the physical, psychological or economic aftermath,” he added.

Road accidents are the second leading cause of death globally among young people aged 5 to 29, and the third leading cause among people aged 30 to 44 years. In low- and middle-income countries, the cost of traffic injuries is estimated at $65 billion, exceeding the total amount these countries receive in development assistance. Globally, injuries cost countries between 1 and 2 per cent of gross national product – $518 billion every year.

Yet most road traffic crashes are preventable, WHO said. There are many available and affordable interventions which can save lives and prevent injuries and disabilities. These include legislation and enforcement, sharing information on the use of seat-belts, helmets, and child restraints and on the dangers of speed and drink-driving, and improvements in road design and infrastructure and emergency trauma services.

WHO, with partners from the UN Road Safety Collaboration, is working on manuals to address these factors and provide guidance to countries on how to design, implement and evaluate related policies and programmes.