Update March 2013: Changes in legislation are urgently needed to reduce traffic deaths, and especially among the most vulnerable, says Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a Decade of Action, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and including data on the Americas gathered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). See also Fact sheets on road safety in the Americas — Stephen
More than 16,000 people killed or injured on roads EVERY day
Health costs $500 billion ++
By Stephen Leahy
LEIPZIG, Germany, May 31, 2011 (IPS)
The leading killer of children over the age of five is not malaria or dysentery, but cars and trucks. And ninety percent of those children are killed on roads in developing countries.
Each day, 3,500 people are killed and 13,700 injured in road accidents around the world. That death and injury toll is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent over the next decade without serious efforts to improve road safety, says Etienne Krug, director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Krug was here in Leipzig to the launch of the United Nations the Decade of Action for Road Safety at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual International Transport Forum. The goal for the U.N. Decade is to stabilise the spiralling increase in death and injuries on the world’s roads.
“We have the potential to save five million of lives over the next decade through changes in road safety,” Krug told IPS.
“A cultural shift is needed to create the awareness of the need for road safety,” he said.
Around 90 percent of all road fatalities occur in emerging and developing countries, making it the sixth leading cause of death in those countries. The lack of road safety laws and enforcement combined with increasing vehicle usage and population growth are the major reasons for this, said Krug.
Only 15 percent of countries in the world have good legislation on drinking and driving or use of helmets when driving scooters and motorcycles. “We want to push that to 50 percent by the 2020,” he said.
Legislation and enforcement can make a huge difference. Vietnam enacted a helmet law two years ago and the use of helmets went from only 20 percent to over 90 percent, he said. Brazil recently enacted strict drinking and driving laws, while Mexico has made wearing seatbelts mandatory.
“Much more of this is needed,” he said.