U.N.-declared "Decade of Action for Road Safety" seeks to save millions of lives worldwide

10 May 2011, Washington, D.C. (PAHO) - Countries throughout the Americas are signing on to a worldwide effort to save lives and reduce injuries from traffic incidents, as they launch the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 this week.

Endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, the global initiative calls attention to the growing toll of traffic injuries and promotes action to reduce them by promoting measures including helmet and seat belt use, speed reduction and avoidance of drinking and driving. The global Decade of Action hopes to save 5 million lives, prevent 50 million serious injuries and save US$5 trillion over the next 10 years.

In the Western Hemisphere, road traffic injuries are the number-one cause of death for children 5 to 14 and the second-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 44. Traffic crashes kill more than 140,000 people each year in the Americas, while more than 5 million suffer nonfatal injuries, many resulting in permanent disabilities. In many countries-particularly lower-income countries-the majority of traffic deaths and injuries occur among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

"In the Americas and throughout the world, people are needlessly losing their lives, many of them in the prime of their lives," said Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). "This initiative provides a framework for countries and communities to implement measures that we know are effective in preventing road injuries and deaths."

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 includes a Global Plan that outlines steps to improve the safety of roads and vehicles, enhance emergency services, and strengthen road-safety management in general. It calls for more and stronger laws and better enforcement of existing laws on the five main risk factors for road injuries: nonuse of helmets, seat belts, and child restraints; drinking and driving; and speeding.

A recent PAHO/WHO study found that in the Western Hemisphere, two out of three countries have laws that address these top-five risk factors, but one in three countries lacks laws in at least one of these areas. For example, at least 10 countries do not require the use of car seats for young children. Many more countries have inadequate enforcement of existing laws, typically due to lack of resources or weaknesses in the legislation itself.

In the Americas as in other regions, much more progress has been made in protecting people in cars than in protecting pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. To protect these more vulnerable groups, the Global Plan includes measures such as the construction of bicycle and foot paths and separate motorcycle lanes, as well as improved access to safe public transportation.

Regional Road Safety Forum in Mexico City

As part of a series of road safety events being held this week, Mexico will host the 2nd Ibero-American and Caribbean Road Safety Forum on May 12 and 13 in Mexico City. The meeting will bring ministers of transport, interior, health, finance, education, urban planning and tourism together with policymakers, planners, researchers and other road safety advocates from Latin America and the Caribbean. The forum is expected to conclude with a commitment to reduce by 50 percent the number of road deaths and injuries in the Region of the Americas, through the implementation of a regional road safety action plan. The forum will also provide an opportunity to share best road safety practices from throughout the hemisphere.

A number of other PAHO/WHO member countries-including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela-will host high-profile events and release national plans to improve safety and services for road crash victims during the week.

Some of the planned events include:

In Costa Rica, the launch of a new National Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety, on May 11 at the National Stadium, sponsored by the National Road Safety Council (COSEVI). Participants will include the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Ministry of Public Education, the Red Cross, firefighters, the Transit Police, and other public and private organizations.

In Cuba, a May 11 panel discussion sponsored by the National Road Safety Commission, made up of several ministries and institutions.

In El Salvador, a road safety fair featuring accident simulations and emergency responders, the building of a monument using wrecked cars, a photo exhibit on road safety, and a concert by the national symphonic orchestra.

In Honduras, the launch of a new National Plan of Action for Road Safety, developed by the National Road Safety Commission (CONASEVI) with support from PAHO/WHO; it will take place May 11 at the Presidential House.

In Panama, the re-activation of the National Transit Council-made up of 17 institutions from the public and private sectors and civil society-as well as demonstrations on public transport and motorcycle safety and the distribution of road safety posters, T-shirts and flyers, among other activities.

In addition, Times Square in New York City and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro will be among the major landmarks that will be illuminated with the special tag that symbolizes the global Decade of Action for Road Safety.

PAHO/WHO will play a role in coordinating regional and global efforts over the Decade of Action and will monitor progress toward achieving its objectives at the national and international levels. PAHO/WHO will also continue to provide technical support to national road safety initiatives aimed at decreasing drunk driving and speeding; increasing the use of helmets, seat-belts and child restraints; and improving emergency care.



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