A United Nations-sponsored gathering of young people from around the world has issued a global call to arms for governments, schools, universities, the media, the entertainment industry, bartenders and youths themselves to take action to improve road safety for young people – who are more likely to be killed by road accidents than any other cause.
Some 400 participants at the World Youth Assembly, a two-day event concluding today at the UN in Geneva, issued a declaration urging young people to “stand up and participate in local, national and international road safety campaigns and programmes.”
They pledged to set their own example for others by taking practical steps, from always wearing seat belts and motorcycle helmets to refraining from speeding or drink driving.
The youth delegates, who spanned at least 100 countries, also called on adults, “our heroes and our mentors… to create a safe environment for us when we are on the road, and to serve as road models for safe traffic behaviour.”
The World Youth Assembly was staged as part of the first ever UN Global Road Safety Week, which has a theme this year focusing on the impact on young people.
A report released last week by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that road traffic crashes have become the leading cause of death for people aged between 10 and 24, with nearly 400,000 people in that age bracket killed every year and millions of others permanently disabled or injured.
The overwhelming majority of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and the report concluded that, on average, the crashes cost such nations more than one per cent of their gross national product (GNP) in health care, material and other expenses.
In an address by video-link to the Geneva gathering, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said there was an “unprecedented” global momentum now on road safety.
The General Assembly has passed a series of resolutions on the issue calling on Member States to implement tougher preventive action, and the UN has also recommended that countries the third Sunday in November each year as a ‘World Day of Remembrance’ for road traffic victims.
Sheikha Haya said she hoped the delegates will be able to use the spotlight from this week’s gathering “to push for greater attention to be paid to road safety within your own countries” and the rest of the world.
“I hope that through your campaign you can convince community leaders, the private sector, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and civil society, celebrities and the media to take up the challenge and act as role models for the cause,” she said.