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Safety on the Road: Make this Decade the Safest Ever

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, an initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May, strives to prevent road traffic deaths and injuries worldwide over the course of the coming decade.

According to WHO, 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads; between 20 and 50 million are injured on roads each year; and traffic injuries are the leading killer of young people ages 15-29. Additionally, traffic accidents are projected to take the lives of 1.9 million people worldwide annually by 2020.

“Today, countries and communities are taking action vital to saving lives on our streets and highways,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “Road traffic crashes are a growing health and development concern affecting all nations, and the Decade offers a framework for an intensified response.”

The Global Plan for the Decade outlines steps for improving the safety of roads and vehicles; enhancing emergency services; and bolstering road safety management. It also calls for increased legislation and enforcement on using helmets, seatbelts and child restraints and avoiding drinking and driving and speeding. Currently, only 15 percent of countries have comprehensive laws that address all of these factors.

As pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists collectively represent almost half of those killed on the world’s roads, the plan suggests measures that may help protect these vulnerable groups – such as building cycle and footpaths and separate motorcycle lanes or improving access to safe public transport.

If successfully implemented, WHO estimates the Global Plan’s activities could save 5 million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries over the course of the decade.

“Preventing motor vehicle crashes is a winnable battle,” said John Ulczycki, group vice president of strategic initiatives at the National Safety Council (NSC), which urges Americans to take part in the Decade of Action. “Each of us can take actions to reduce our chance of being in a motor vehicle crash. We can prevent these tragedies and keep families together.”

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