Last week, WHO kicked off the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 in Geneva, with the ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030. WHO and the UN regional commissions, in cooperation with other partners in the UN Road Safety Collaboration, have developed a Global Plan for the Decade of Action.
Globally, over 3,500 people die every day on the roads, which amounts to nearly 1.3 million preventable deaths and an estimated 50 million injuries each year – making it the leading killer of children and young people worldwide. As things stand, they are set to cause a further estimated 13 million deaths and 500 million injuries during the next decade, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. These are unacceptable numbers, both in absolute and relative terms. Road traffic crashes have remained a major cause of death globally, even though every one of those deaths and injuries is preventable.
Nearly 90% of these casualties take place in developing countries and 11% of them are accounted for by India. As per the Road Accident Report for 2019, a total of 449,002 road crashes took place in the country during CY2019 leading to 151,113 fatalities and 451,361 injured. In percentage terms, the number of accidents reduced marginally by 3.86 % in 2019 over 2018, while accident-related deaths were down by 0.20 % and people injured decreased by 3.86 percent. The decline appears to have been a result of the more stringent road safety rules in the Motor Vehicle Act implemented across the country from September 2019.
“The loss of lives and livelihoods, the disabilities caused, the grief and pain, and the financial costs caused by road traffic crashes add up to an intolerable toll on families, communities, societies and health systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “So much of this suffering is preventable, by making roads and vehicles safer, and by promoting safe walking, cycling and greater use of public transport. The Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety lays out the practical, evidence-based steps all countries and communities can take to save lives.”
Making streets safer
Recognising the importance of the problem and the need to act, governments from around the world declared unanimously – through UN General Assembly Resolution 74/299 – the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 with the explicit target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50% during that period.
“One of the best ways to save and improve lives is to make our streets safer – but that work often doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “Bloomberg Philanthropies has been working to improve road safety since 2007 by strengthening laws, increasing enforcement, redesigning streets, and using data. I’m glad to say that the WHO’s ambitious global plan for road safety includes many of the strategies that we’ve used to save lives, and it will help encourage governments around the world to make road safety the high priority it should be.”
This Global Plan describes the actions needed to achieve that target. This includes accelerated action to make walking, cycling and using public transport safe, as they are also healthier and greener modes of transport; to ensure safe roads, vehicles and behaviours; and to guarantee timely and effective emergency care. It is aimed to inspire countries, including governments and partners to act boldly and decisively, using the tools and knowledge gained from the last Decade of Action to change course.
“More than 50 million people have died on the world’s roads since the invention of the automobile. This is more than the number of deaths in World War One or some of the worst epidemics,” says Dr Etienne Krug, the Director of the Department of the Social Determinants of Health. “It is time to put in action what we know works and shift to a much safer and healthier mode of transport. This new plan will lead countries onto a more sustainable path.”
The Global Plan outlines recommended actions drawn from proven and effective interventions, as well as best practices for preventing road trauma. It should be used as a blueprint to inform and inspire national and local plans that are tailored to local contexts, available resources and capacity. The Global Plan is aimed not only at senior policy-makers, but also other stakeholders who can influence road safety, such as civil society, academia, the private sector and community and youth leaders.
Photos: Subhash Simhudu
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