More than 2 road traffic deaths happen every minute, WHO says – National

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that road safety is still an urgent global issue, even though it notes progress has been made over more than 10 years.

The number of annual road traffic deaths has fallen to 1.19 million per year, amounting to about a five per cent drop since 2010, according to a WHO report published Wednesday.

The WHO’s 2023 global status report on road safety states pedestrians, cyclists and “other vulnerable road users” still face an “acute and rising risk of death,” with more than two deaths occurring per minute and more than 3,200 per day.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivered comments on Wednesday during the release of the report and said while some action has been taken, it’s still not enough.

That is 1.2 million people who set out on a journey maybe to walk to school, to go shopping, to see a friend or to go on a holiday, and that journey was their last road,” Ghebreyesus said.

The report showed that the number of traffic deaths varies dependent on where people live, with the highest proportion found in WHO’s southeast Asian region where 28 per cent of deaths globally occurred. This was followed by 25 per cent in the Western Pacific region, 19 per cent in the African region, 12 per cent in the Americas, 11 per cent in the eastern Mediterranean and five per cent in the European region.

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Though the numbers are still unwanted, the director-general noted several countries had seen a drop in traffic-related deaths between 2010 and 2021, with 10 — including Japan, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates — able to reduce the rate by more than 50 per cent. Another 35 countries also made progress, reducing deaths by 30 to 50 per cent.

In terms of region, they too saw adjustments with about a 36 per cent reduction in the European region, while the African region dropped by about 17 per cent.

Click to play video: 'Montreal steps up safety in school zones as pedestrian death rate rises'

Montreal steps up safety in school zones as pedestrian death rate rises

“You have demonstrated that efforts to improve road safety can work,” Ghebreyesus said. “But far more needs to be done in many more countries to meet the sustainable development goal target of halving fatalities by 2030.”

That number was set out by the UN General Assembly in 2020, creating an ambitious target of preventing at least 50 per cent of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.

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When it comes to who is most impacted on the roads, 53 per cent of all traffic fatalities are vulnerable road users, including pedestrians which make up 23 per cent, two and three-wheeler riders such as motorcycles account for 21 per cent, cyclists were six per cent of deaths, and users of micro-mobility devices like e-scooters accounted for three per cent. Car and other four-wheel light vehicle users also were factored into the percentage of deaths, sitting currently at 30 per cent.

Yet the majority of these deaths, nine in 10, occurred in low- and middle-income countries, something Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg Philanthropies called an “outrage.”

“I’m glad to say that we’ve made some promising progress, but road safety is still not getting the attention it deserves,” he said in a video message presented at the report’s release. “The only way that (meeting the 2030 goal) will happen is if all of us step up and send them a clear message about how important this issue is to our communities.”

The risk of death, according to the report, is three times higher in low-income than high-income countries, despite the former having just one per cent of the world’s vehicles.

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Safety audit to look at making roads safer for cyclists

Road traffic deaths leading killer for youth globally

While overall road traffic deaths decreased over the course of about a decade, the total fatalities among pedestrians globally rose by about three per cent to 274,000 during the same period, while cyclist deaths — though they account for six per cent of global deaths — rose by nearly 20 per cent to 71,000.

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One of the biggest groups impacted however by road traffic deaths are youth and children aged five to 29 years with the report noting road traffic crashes remain the leading killer of this age range globally.

“Every one of those deaths is a preventable tragedy,” Ghebreyesus said.

Raquel Barrios, the executive director for Youth for Road Safety (YOURS), spoke Wednesday during a panel discussion on the report and said given it’s a big issue facing children and youth, the group also has a “vital role” in addressing the challenges.

“Youth have inherited a transport system that is threatening their lives,” she said. “So there is an imperative need to change the way that youth are perceived and transform that narrative or shift that paradigm into seeing them as active contributors and assets to transform that transport system.”

It’s why she says governments of all levels should consider what youth have to say because many are active road users and have lived experience that could help policymakers when designing policies. She also added that millennials are also using digital technology to come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions that could be implemented.

Along with the report came a call for better standards due to what it notes was an “alarming lack of progress” in advancing laws and safety standards with only six countries having laws that meet WHO’s best practices for all risk factors. These risks involve speeding, drink-driving, and use of motorcycle helmets, seatbelts and child restraints. Meanwhile, it says 140 countries, two-thirds of which are UN member states, have laws for at least one of the factors.

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But with the global motor-vehicle fleet set to double by 2030, the report also raises that just 35 countries legislate on all key vehicle safety features, like advanced braking system.

“For the road we have the vaccine, it’s our own education, law enforcement, infrastructures, vehicle post-crash care,” John Dodd, special envoy for the UN secretary-general, said to those in attendance for the report’s release.

“So we must use this vaccine, and I mean, we are talking about the helmet, speed limit, safety belt, drink-driving, text-driving, all that needs to be addressed.”

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