May 11, 2011(CPV)- On May 11, dozens of countries around the world will kick off the first global Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.
Governments in the world are committing to take new steps to save lives on their roads. The Decade seeks to prevent road traffic deaths and injuries which experts project will take the lives of 1.9 million people annually by 2020 in the absence of a major global scale up of prevention efforts.
To mark the launch of the Decade, governments and other stakeholders in more than 70 countries have reported to WHO that they have plans to host high-profile events and release national plans to improve safety and services for victims. A number of landmark national monuments will also be illuminated with the road safety “tag”, the new symbol for the Decade. These include Times Square in New York City; Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro; Trafalgar Square in London; the Jet d’Eau in Geneva and the historic Dong Xuan market in Hanoi.
“Today, Vietnam is joining countries and communities around the world in declaring their support to take action vital to saving lives on our streets and highways. Injuries and deaths resulting from road traffic crashes are a growing health and development concern affecting all nations, and this Decade offers a framework for an intensified response”, said WHO Representative to Vietnam, Dr Graham Harrison.
Road traffic injuries have become the leading killer of young people aged 15–29 years. Almost 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, making this the ninth leading cause of death globally. In addition to these deaths, road crashes cause up to 50 million non-fatal injuries every year.
In Vietnam, road trauma exacts a terrible burden on society, claiming more than 14,000 lives and causing a further 140,000 hospitalized injuries in 2009, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
In many countries, including Vietnam, emergency care and other support services for road traffic victims are insufficient. These avoidable injuries overload already stretched health services.
The Global Plan outlines steps towards improving the safety of roads and vehicles; enhancing emergency services; and building up road safety management generally, all areas that are also addressed in the draft of the national road safety strategy. It also calls for increased legislation and enforcement on using helmets, seat-belts and child restraints and avoiding drinking and driving and speeding. Today only 15% of countries have comprehensive laws which address all of these factors.
Vietnam has a very successful mandatory helmet law (effective September 15, 2007), an example of how road safety can be strengthened even in developing countries, that has received wide international acclaim. Whilst ongoing challenges still require further attention, other risk factors such as drink driving, speeding, overloaded vehicles, poor infrastructure, insufficient public transport and limited capacity for pre hospital trauma care all contribute substantially to road traffic injuries in this country of more than 31 million motorcycles.
If effectively and sustainably implemented, the activities of the Global Plan could save 5 million lives, prevent 50 million serious injuries and lead to 5 trillion USD in savings over the course of the Decade.
WHO will play a role in coordinating global efforts over the Decade and will monitor progress towards achieving the objectives of the Decade at the national and international levels. In Vietnam, WHO along with other international stakeholders continue to work with the Government to strengthen the action against major road safety risk factors, particularly drink driving, and increasing capacity for pre-hospital trauma care at the community level.