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20 Apr, 2012

Decade of Action To Cut 1.3 Million Annual Road Deaths, Millions Of Injuries


UN Headquarters, 19 April 2012, Department of Public Information – Recognizing the global public health and development burden resulting from road traffic crashes, the General Assembly today adopted a consensus resolution welcoming the national and local launches of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 in over 100 countries, the regional launches, and other global events designed to stem the “staggering” number of preventable casualties on the roads.

For its afternoon debate, the Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on improving global road safety, prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with the United Nations regional commissions and other partners of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration. It provides an account of activities undertaken by the global road safety community towards the objectives of the Decade of Action.

By its resolution, the Assembly invited States that had not done so to nominate national focal points for the Decade of Action and, more broadly, called for implementing road safety activities in each of the five pillars of the Decade’s Global Plan: road safety management; safer roads and mobility; safer vehicles; safer road users; and post-crash response. States were also encouraged to adopt and implement comprehensive national road safety legislation on the major risk factors, and improve implementation through social marketing campaigns and enforcement activities.

By other terms, States were encouraged to improve pre-hospital, trauma and rehabilitation care by adopting a national Emergency Medical System telephone number, and providing appropriate equipment. They also were invited to take a lead role in fostering multisectoral collaboration with academia, the private sector, professional associations, non-governmental organizations and civil society. For their part, WHO and United Nations regional commissions were requested to organize activities during the second United Nations Global Road Safety Week to raise awareness about road safety issues.

“Our joint efforts to fight traffic injuries at the national and global levels will be able, not only to save hundreds of thousands of lives, but also promote social and economic progress,” said Victor Kiryanov, Deputy Minister of Interior of the Russian Federation, introducing the text (document A/66/L.43).

Road safety was among the most pressing challenges for large cities, he said, recalling that the first Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, held in Moscow three years ago, declared 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action. Within that framework, a campaign had been launched in 2010 to stabilize and reduce global fatalities due to traffic accidents. Today’s text voiced appreciation for activities being carried out by WHO, United Nations regional commissions and the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration. It also requested regional commissions to continue to raise public awareness about road safety, and called on States to implement measures in all areas stipulated by the Global Plan.

Speaking before action, Lyutha Al-Mughairy (Oman) recalled that in 2003, her country had presented a draft resolution on the “Global Road Safety Crisis”, which also had been adopted by consensus. “We have come a long way since then,” she said, noting that WHO, the World Bank and regional economic commissions had shown genuine leadership in raising awareness of the issue.

United Nations data showed that nearly 1.2 million people died and millions were injured each year from road accidents — with the economic and social costs hitting $518 billion annually. Oman had carried out several measures, including outreach to police to enhance traffic safety, and the 2011 launch of a national road safety strategy.

Jón Erlingur Jónasson (Iceland) said his country had managed to halve the number of road traffic deaths during the last decade, from an average 25 deaths a year from 2002 to 2006, to an average of 13 from 2007 to 2011. It could boast the least number of fatalities per capita and vehicle in Europe. Iceland was committed to raising awareness — nationally and internationally — about spinal cord injuries, as almost half of them resulted from traffic accidents. His Government supported the Institute of Spinal Cord Injury in Iceland and encouraged States to take similar steps in order to increase the knowledge of serious injuries caused by traffic accidents.

Underlining that 90 per cent of the deaths caused by road accidents each year occurred in poor countries, Regina Maria Cordeiro Dunlop (Brazil) said her country was especially devoted to advancing national legislation, improving surveillance and enforcement, and increasing public awareness. Improving road safety required multidisciplinary actions, and addressing risk factors — such as the non-use of safety belts and child restraints, the non-use of helmets, driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding, texting and the inappropriate use of cell phones.

Malaysia representative, Hussein Haniff, said his country had set up a road safety department in the Ministry of Transport in 2004 as a one-stop agency to coordinate, monitor and implement road safety programmes. A Road Safety Plan for 2011-2020 outlined Malaysia’s vision to achieve its goals. Its “Zero Fatality Vision” covered all aspects of safety and aimed to prevent even one person from being killed or seriously injured due to preventable traffic accidents. Further, Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh was a Global Ambassador for the “Make Roads Safe” campaign. Road traffic accidents, in most cases, were preventable and his Government would continue to promote safety initiatives.

Highlighting the difficulties of small States with limited resources, Joseph Goddard ( Barbados) said his country could not afford the high costs of traffic accidents. WHO had predicted that, by 2015, road crashes would be the leading cause of premature death and disabilities for children age 5 years and above. For its part, Barbados had created the Road Safety Council last July, which was chaired by the Prime Minister and included representatives from the private sector, labour unions, insurers, petrol dealers, car importers, the health and education sectors, police and non-governmental organizations. It aimed to reduce the number and severity of collisions, as well as the financial, social and emotional costs to society.

Arturo Cervantes Trejo, Director of the National Council for the Prevention of Accidents of Mexico, said the WHO report showed that 10 countries accounted for 62 per cent of the deaths caused by traffic accidents, with Mexico ranking seventh of those countries. That was why Mexico was part of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration. Every year, traffic accidents claimed the lives of 17,000 Mexicans and caused more than 350,000 major injuries requiring hospitalization. The economic costs of those injuries and deaths totalled more than $10 billion annually, or 1.7 per cent of Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP). The national strategy for 2011-2020 had been made into law and aimed to halve the number of deaths, injuries and disabilities in that timeframe.

Rabee Jawhara (Syria) said his country was party to road safety conventions and had created a high-level committee to address the issue under the leadership of the Prime Minister and in partnership with a number of non-governmental organizations. In addition, public road institutions worked to guarantee that international standards were implemented on various fronts. Developing countries needed support and technology transfer from developed countries, the United Nations and others. What prevented Governments from implementing road improvement plans was the lack of economic support. In Syria, armed groups often used roads to take hostages or to target travellers, which led to casualties.

Underlining that road transport was important for development, Fortuna Dibaco (Ethiopia) said that traffic accidents and the attendant deaths were major challenges across the globe. The situation was pronounced in developing and low-income countries. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health was developing a three-year strategic plan to prevent injuries and establish emergency medical services. Ethiopia also had created a national road safety coordinating office, in line with WHO recommendations.

Rounding out the afternoon remarks, Marwan Jilani,Permanent Observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said his organization had been among the first to recognize the road-crash crisis as a global humanitarian emergency with its 1998 World Disasters Report. The Global Road Safety Partnership worked with Governments, the private sector and civil society to implement safety programmes. It also engaged in capacity-building and was active on five continents to improve management systems and facilitate training.