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UN chief spotlights road safety as traffic accidents claim 1.2 million lives each year

Photo: IRIN/Reena Gurung
IRIN/Reena Gurung
Photo: IRIN/Reena Gurung

UN chief spotlights road safety as traffic accidents claim 1.2 million lives each year

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the importance of road safety in preventing more than one million people from dying and many more from getting injured each year in traffic accidents.

“This year, the world's roads have claimed some 1.2 million lives,” Mr. Ban said in his message marking World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. “Added to the fatalities are the more than 50 million people injured each year – many of them now condemned to enduring physical disabilities and psychological trauma for the rest of their days.”

Around 90 per cent of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low and middle-income countries, and most of the victims are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to killing close to 1.3 million people every year, traffic accidents also injure or disable as many as 50 million more – and, without urgent action, road traffic injuries will become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

The Day came about following the adoption of a resolution by the General Assembly in October 2005 calling for governments to mark the third Sunday in November each year as the occasion to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their relatives who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of the accidents.

In his message, Mr. Ban noted that governments have taken positive steps to address traffic accidents since more than 100 countries pledged last year to save five million lives by implementing road safety strategies and information campaigns at the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020.

“Governments are acting,” Mr. Ban said. “Chilean law now requires people travelling on inter-city buses to wear seatbelts. China has criminalized drinking and driving and increased penalties for offenders, and New Zealand has introduced stricter controls on alcohol for younger drivers.”

Countries have also shown commitment to enhance and enforce legislation, the UN chief noted. In Brazil, for example, police are stricter on drinking and driving. In Turkey, seatbelt use has increased from eight to 50 per cent, and in Viet Nam, motorcycle helmet use has tripled from 30 to 90 per cent. Other countries, including Ghana, India, Mozambique and Pakistan, are improving care for people who have suffered road traffic injuries.

“On this World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, let us commit to minimizing road traffic deaths and injuries as part of our quest for an equitable and sustainable future,” the UN chief added.