The WHO launched a program calling for improved road safety throughout the world. I’d say that’s a noncontroversial aim – of course, note the usual guilt tripping of the developed world at the end:
- Road crashes are the second leading cause of death globally among young people aged five to 29 and the third leading cause of death among people aged 30 to 44 years. Road crashes kill 1.2 million people every year and injure or disable as many as 50 million more. (See map and table for geographic and age-group data) Without immediate action to improve road safety, it is estimated that road traffic deaths will increase by 80% in low- and middle-income countries by 2020. A joint report launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank today demonstrates that much can be done to reduce the toll of deaths and injuries and that “Road Safety is no Accident”.
“Thousands of people die on the world’s roads everyday. We are not talking about random events or ‘accidents’. We are talking about road crashes. The risks can be understood and therefore can be prevented,” said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General, World Health Organization. “Road safety is no accident. We have the knowledge to act now. It is a question of political will,” he added.
The magnitude of this growing global public health crisis, the risk factors that lead to road traffic deaths and injuries and effective ways to prevent them are detailed in the World report on road traffic injury prevention. The report provides governments and other policy-makers, industry, nongovernmental organizations, international agencies and individuals with concrete recommendations to improve road safety.
Unlike in high-income countries where those most at risk of injury or death are drivers and passengers in cars, the people who are most at risk of being involved in a road traffic crash in low- and middle-income countries are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and users of informal modes of public transport.
….many countries have already demonstrated that actions to improve road safety will protect people. Recent gains have been achieved in nations such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Thailand. In past decades tens of thousands of lives have been saved in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America and others countries in Western Europe. This success is attributed to improving the design of vehicles and roads and focusing on legislation, enforcement and sharing of information about the use of seat-belts, helmets, and child restraints and about the dangers of speed and drunk-driving.
Among the report’s recommendations are the appointment of a lead agency in every country to coordinate multisectoral efforts, the preparation of national road safety strategies and plans of action with clear roles and objectives for each sector, and the implementation of proven interventions to prevent crashes and minimize injuries and their consequences. The report notes that road safety is a shared responsibility, and calls on the expertise of people across many sectors and disciplines, including public health professionals, health care providers, road and motor vehicle engineers, law enforcement officials and educators.
Heather McCartney is helping get the message out:
- Heather Mills McCartney’s left leg was severed below the knee when she was hit by a London police motorcycle in 1993.
Nearly 20 years before that, her mother lost a leg in a road accident.
Mills McCartney is supporting a World Health Organisation campaign to cut road deaths, which the WHO said could kill 2.3m people a year by 2020.
Launching the year-long campaign, she said: “It took one human error to take my leg and one human error to take my mother’s.”
She said many traffic deaths and injuries could be prevented if nations would focus on improving safety.
“You really can fix this. It’s just about more awareness,” she said.
In a taped message played at the launch, US President George Bush called road safety “a significant worldwide health issue”.
He said law enforcement and an increased use of seat belts had helped to reduce US deaths.
World Bank vice-president David De Ferranti called traffic deaths “an unequal killer” because 90% happened in low or middle-income countries.
In 2002, crashes killed 28 out of every 100,000 people in Africa, compared to 14 out of every 100,000 in the US. [BBC]
Perhaps the currne tresults are “unequal,” but of the five major risk factors in road accidents and injuries, all but one are in the control of the driver: speed, alcohol consumption, seat-belts and child safety seats, helmets, and visibility. All but visibility are directly in the control of the driver: don’t speed, don’t drink and drive, wear seat-belts and always use child safety seats (if you can afford a car, you can afford a safety seat), and always wear a helmet if you use a two-wheel vehicle.