The United Nations and its Member States have long acknowledged the terrible toll of road traffic deaths (more than 1.2 million fatalities and millions of casualties every year), however it has only been during the past decade that the issue has gained the prominence it deserves among the world's most pressing international health and development concerns.
In 2004, the World Health Organization and the World Bank published the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, setting out recommendations for Member States to improve their road safety situation. The report was followed by a number of United Nations General Assembly and World Health Assembly resolutions calling on Member States to prioritize road safety as a development and public health issue and to take measures that are known to be effective in reducing the numbers of deaths and injuries on the world's roads.
In 2009, the World Health Organization published the Global Status Report on Road Safety, the first global assessment of the road safety situation in 178 countries. The same year, the Commission for Global Road Safety issued a call for a decade of action for road safety calling for a concerted effort across all societies to address the dramatic road safety crisis. This call was reflected in the "Moscow Declaration" issued further to the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation in November 2009. The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was officially proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in March 2010 and commenced on May 11, 2011.
1. Road traffic injuries are a serious global health and development concern
More than 1.2 million people worldwide die as a result of road traffic collisions every year, making road traffic injuries the tenth leading cause of death globally. Over 90 % of fatal and non-fatal road traffic accidents occur in low and middle-income countries and road traffic crashes are now the leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years worldwide. Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Millions more people are injured and often remain disabled for life. In addition to the grief and suffering they cause, road traffic crashes result in considerable economic losses to victims, their families, and nations as a whole, costing most countries between 1 and 3 %, and in some cases 5 %, of their gross national product.
2. Road traffic injuries can be prevented
There is irrefutable evidence that fatal and non-fatal road traffic accidents can be prevented. Countries which have made the greatest progress in road safety have done so by involving all relevant sectors of society. Comprehensive legislation and enforcement around key factors such as drinking and driving, speeding and wearing seat-belts and helmets; safe roads and vehicles; and an effective emergency care system are key ingredients to success. However, there are improvements to be made in every country of the world in order to avoid these tragic deaths and accidents.
3. The Decade of Action for Road Safety is an opportunity to save millions of lives
The Decade provides a framework to countries and communities to increase action to save lives on the world’s roads. The United Nations Road Safety Collaboration has developed, through a broad consultation process, the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety as a guide to Member States and their partners on actions to consider. The following categories of activities appear in the Global Plan: building road safety management capacity; improving the safety of road infrastructure and transport networks in general; further developing the safety of vehicles; enhancing the behavior of road users; and improving emergency and other post-crash services. Governments, international agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders are invited to make use of this Global Plan to define the actions they will undertake during the Decade.
- Road accidents, which are currently responsible for 1.27 million deaths a year, are likely to cause some 2.4 million fatalities a year in 2030, making this the fifth cause of death.
- Over 90 % of road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries despite the fact that they only have 48 % of the world’s registered vehicles.
- Pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheel drivers ("vulnerable" road users) account for some 46 % of road deaths worldwide.