WHO calls for focus on road safety

WHO says countries must enact tougher laws to prevent drivers from exceeding speed limits and drinking to help reduce casualties from traffic accidents

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Oct 20, 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday urged countries to introduce tougher laws against speeding and drinking to help lower the number of people killed in traffic accidents down from 1.25 million per year.

The WHO's Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 stated the United States, Indonesia and Nigeria are among the countries which have failed to apply best practices.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, "Better laws are needed on speed, drinking and driving, use of motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraints."

Chan also said Europe has the lowest death rates and Africa the highest, while low and medium income countries accounted for 85 percent of road traffic deaths despite only having 54 percent of the world's vehicles.

An expert from the organisation, Dr. Etienne Krug, reported that car-makers also have a part to play, as often safety features are sacrificed in order to keep car prices down.

According to the WHO's data, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable, accounting for 49 percent of fatalities.

"We are talking about some rather simple and basic things such as seat belts, such as front-impact regulations, such as electricity stability control," Krug said, adding that better trauma care for victims is also key.

"And that does not necessarily need to be expensive. Very often the assumption is that we need more helicopters and very fancy ambulances. In fact, a very basic ambulance with minimum equipment and people who are trained in simple (life-saving) measures could do a lot of good."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his city had reduced road deaths to historic lows by making streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and that it was possible to do the same around the world.

"Traffic crashes are something like the ninth leading cause of death in the world. They are the number one cause of death for people aged 15-29. The fact is that every one of those deaths really is preventable," he said.

TRTWorld and agencies