The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that road safety remains a pressing global problem, although it notes that progress has been made for more than 10 years.
The annual number of road deaths fell to 1.19 million, a drop of around 5% since 2010, according to a WHO report released on Wednesday.
WHO’s 2023 global situation report on road safety says pedestrians, cyclists and “other vulnerable road users” still face an “acute and increasing risk of death”, with more than two deaths per minute and more than 3,200 per day.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made comments Wednesday when the report was released and said that while some steps have been taken, they are still not enough.
“That’s 1.2 million people who took a trip, perhaps to walk to school, go shopping, see a friend or go on vacation, and that trip was their last journey,” said Ghebreyesus.
The report shows that the number of road deaths varies depending on where people live, with the highest proportion being in the WHO South-East Asia region, where 28 occur. percent of deaths worldwide. This is followed by 25 percent in the Western Pacific region, 19 percent in the African region, 12 percent in the Americas, 11 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean region and 5 percent in the European region.
While these figures are still undesirable, the director-general noted that several countries had seen a decline in the number of road accident-related deaths between 2010 and 2021, ten of them – including Japan, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates – having managed to reduce their rate by more than 50. percent. Thirty-five other countries have also made progress, reducing deaths by 30 to 50 percent.
In terms of region, they also saw adjustments with a reduction of around 36 percent in the European region, while the African region fell by around 17 percent.
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“You have demonstrated that efforts to improve road safety can work,” Ghebreyesus said. “But more needs to be done in more countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of halving the number of deaths by 2030.”
This number was set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2020creating an ambitious target to prevent at least 50 percent of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.
When it comes to those most affected on the roads, 53 percent of all road deaths are among vulnerable road users, including pedestrians who account for 23 percent, two- and three-wheeler drivers and Motorcycles account for 21 percent, cyclists. six percent of deaths, and users of micro-mobility devices like electric scooters accounted for three percent. Users of cars and other light four-wheeled vehicles were also taken into account in the percentage of deaths, which currently stands at 30 percent.
Yet the majority of these deaths, nine out of ten, occurred in low- and middle-income countries, which Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg Philanthropies called “scandalous.”
“I am pleased to say that we have made promising progress, but road safety still does not receive the attention it deserves,” he said in a video message presented at the release of the report. “The only way to get there (to reach the 2030 target) is for each of us to take action and send them a clear message about how important this issue is to our communities.” »
The risk of death, according to the report, is three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries, even though the former have only one percent of the world’s car fleet.
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Road deaths are the leading causes of death among young people worldwide
While total road deaths have declined over about a decade, total pedestrian deaths increased by about 3 percent globally to 274,000 over the same period. period, while cyclist deaths – despite accounting for 6 per cent of global deaths – increased by almost 20 per cent to 71,000.
However, one of the groups most affected by road deaths is young people and children aged five to 29, with the report highlighting that road accidents remain the leading cause of death in this age group. age globally.
“Each of these deaths is a preventable tragedy,” Ghebreyesus said.
Raquel Barrios, executive director of Youth for Road Safety (YOURS), spoke at a panel discussion on the report Wednesday and said that because it is a major issue facing children and young people, the group also has a “vital role” in meeting challenges.
“Young people have inherited a transportation system that puts their lives at risk,” she said. “There is therefore an imperative need to change the way young people are perceived and transform that narrative or paradigm shift to see them as active contributors and assets to transforming this transport system. »
This is why she says governments at all levels should consider what young people have to say, as many of them are active road users and have lived experience which could help policy makers when of the design of their policies. She also added that millennials are also using digital technology to come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions that could be implemented.
The report came with a call for better standards due to what it noted as an “alarming lack of progress” in advancing safety laws and standards, with only six countries having laws that meet to WHO best practices for all risk factors. These risks include speeding, drinking and driving, and wearing motorcycle helmets, seat belts, and child restraints. At the same time, it indicates that 140 countries, two-thirds of which are UN member states, have laws for at least one of these factors.
But with the global car population expected to double by 2030, the report also highlights that only 35 countries legislate on all key vehicle safety elements, such as advanced braking systems.
“The path to which we have the vaccine depends on our own education, law enforcement, infrastructure, care of vehicles after an accident,” said John Dodd, special envoy of the UN secretary general , to those present for the publication of the report.
“So we need to use this vaccine, and I mean, we’re talking about helmets, speed limits, seat belts, drinking and driving, texting, all of that needs to be addressed. “