UN calls for road safety commitment ahead of major conference

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Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Countries around the world are being urged to pay more attention to road safety to try to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the roads.

Next week, at the second Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Brasil, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) together with the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, will call for a strong commitment to adopt measures to improve safety on the roads.

Nicki Chadwick reports.

Accidents on the road cause 1.25 million deaths and over 50 million injuries every year. They have become the 8th leading cause of death globally and the number one cause of death for young people aged 15-29. Jean Rodriguez, spokesperson for UNECE, says that these numbers can be dramatically reduced through simple measures: "All these safety features, the helmets, the seatbelts, the speed limits, all of those. The child restraint systems, the child seats, as we call them in normal language, all of those have demonstrated their capacity to save lives, in a massive way."

A recent report by the World Health Organization shows that 90% of deaths on the roads occur in low- and middle income countries, even though such countries have only 54% of the world's vehicles. UNECE says that crash tests have shown that for most car makers, cars sold in middle-income countries are generally less safe than the same model sold in Europe or North America.

"If you sit in a car that has lower safety standards, the risk that you die if there is an accident at 50 or 60km an hour is extremely high. If you sit in a car where safety standards have been applied, the risk that you survive is very high. So the difference is very simple; the difference between life and death."

In addition to having a devastating impact on people's lives, road accidents are also responsible for an estimated economic loss of between 3 and 5% of countries' GDPs.

The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals include the target to reduce the number of global deaths and injuries on the roads by 50% by 2030.

Nicki Chadwick, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'48"

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