Better observed and enforced traffic laws vital to saving lives – UN agency

15 June 2009

The United Nations Word Health Organization (WHO) today called for stricter rules on traffic safety, and enforcement of the ones already on the books, to reduce the number of road accidents that kill more than a million people a year.

The United Nations Word Health Organization (WHO) today called for stricter rules on traffic safety, and enforcement of the ones already on the books, to reduce the number of road accidents that kill more than a million people a year.

WHO released a “Global Status Report on Road Safety” assessing some 178 countries on implementation of road safety measures, including limiting speed, reducing drunk driving, and use of seatbelts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets.

The study found that about half of the 1.27 million people killed in traffic accidents ever year are not in cars, but are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists. In addition, only 57 per cent of countries have laws that require all car occupants to wear seat-belts, and less than one third meet basic criteria for reducing speed in urban areas.

Among the other findings are that 50 per cent of countries do not have laws requiring the use of child restraints. Also, while helmet laws exist in more than 90 per cent of countries, only 40 per cent have a law that covers both riders and passengers while also requiring that helmets meet a specified standard.

WHO said that in countries where good traffic laws are on the books, “they are often inadequately enforced,” particularly in low-income countries.

“We found that in many countries, the laws necessary to protect people are either not in place or are not comprehensive. And even when there is adequate legislation, most countries report that their enforcement is low,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

“We are not giving sufficient attention to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists many of whom end up in clinics and hospitals. We must do better if we are to halt or reverse the rise in road traffic injuries, disability and deaths.”

WHO said more than 90 per cent of the world’s road deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, while these countries only have 48 per cent of the world’s vehicles.

 

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