Road crashes are number one cause of death among young people – UN report

19 April 2007

Road traffic crashes have become the leading cause of death among young people, with nearly 400,000 people between the ages of 10 and 24 killed around the world each year and millions of others disabled or injured, usually in crashes that are entirely preventable, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warns in a new report.

Road traffic crashes have become the leading cause of death among young people, with nearly 400,000 people between the ages of 10 and 24 killed around the world each year and millions of others disabled or injured, usually in crashes that are entirely preventable, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warns in a new report.

The report, released on Tuesday in Geneva, shows that the overwhelming majority of deaths and injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries, with Africa and the Middle East the worst-affected regions. Males are at much greater risk than females and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are also more likely to be injured or killed.

The number of deaths and injuries will rise significantly unless more comprehensive action is taken around the world, WHO warned, with traffic accidents already estimated to cost $518 billion in material, health and other costs.

The report, Youth and Road Safety, projects that for some poorer countries, the cost of road crashes is equivalent to 1-1.5 per cent of gross national product (GNP) – or more than the total amount they receive annually in development aid.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said the lack of road safety has been an “important obstacle” to child health and development.

“Our children and young adults are among the most vulnerable,” Dr. Chan said. “Road traffic crashes are not ‘accidents.’ We need to challenge the notion that they are unavoidable and make room for a proactive, preventive approach.”

Most crashes are predictable and preventable, often involving a child playing on the street, an inexperienced motorcyclist or a young passenger on public transport.

Many countries have been able to cut their death tolls in recent years, the report notes, by introducing measures such as the compulsory use of seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints, and by restricting the blood alcohol limits for young drivers and creating safe areas for children to play away from roadways.

The report has been launched of the first UN Global Road Safety Week, which kicks off on Monday to promote greater awareness of the dangers on roads. A two-day World Youth Assembly involving more than 100 delegates will be staged in Geneva so that young people can share experiences and plan projects to encourage more awareness about the issue.

 

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