The Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week will be celebrated from 8 to 14 May 2017. The Week will focus on speed and what can be done to address this key risk factor for road traffic deaths and injuries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released two documents, and updated its fact sheet on road safety ahead of the Week.
About 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes.
Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury.
Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years.
People aged between 15 and 44 years account for 48% of global road traffic deaths.
73% of all road traffic deaths occur among young males under the age of 25 years who are almost 3 times as likely to be killed in a road traffic crash as young females.
90% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately 54% of the world’s vehicles.
Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are “vulnerable road users”: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
Road traffic crashes cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product.
Without sustained action, road traffic crashes are predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.
The newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set an ambitious target of halving the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020.
The Safe System approach to road safety aims to ensure a safe transport system for all road users. The cornerstones of this approach are
- safe roads and roadsides,
- safe speeds,
- safe vehicles, and
- safe road users,
all of which must be addressed in order to eliminate fatal crashes and reduce serious injuries.
An increase in average speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the consequences of the crash. For example, an increase of 1 km/h in mean vehicle speed results in an increase of 3% in the incidence of crashes resulting in injury and an increase of 4–5% in the incidence of fatal crashes.
An adult pedestrian’s risk of dying is less than 20% if struck by a car at 50 km/h and almost 60% if hit at 80 km/h.
Driving under the influence of alcohol
In the case of drink-driving, the risk of a road traffic crash starts at low levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and increases significantly when the driver’s BAC is ≥ 0.04 g/dl.
Non-use of seat-belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints
Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%.
Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of a fatality among front-seat passengers by 40–50% and of rear-seat passengers by between 25–75%.
If correctly installed and used, child restraints reduce deaths among infants by approximately 70% and deaths among small children by between 54% and 80%.
Drivers using mobile phones are approximately 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone.
Using a phone while driving slows reaction times (notably braking reaction time, but also reaction to traffic signals), and makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances.
Hands-free phones are not much safer than hand-held phone sets, and texting considerably increases the risk of a crash.
Unsafe road infrastructure
Ideally, roads should be designed keeping in mind the safety of all road users.
Measures such as footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points, and other traffic calming measures can be critical to reducing the risk of injury among these road users.
UN regulations on vehicle safety require manufacturers
- to meet front and side impact regulations,
- to include electronic stability control (to prevent over-steering) and
- to ensure airbags and seat-belts are fitted in all vehicles.
Without these basic standards the risk of traffic injuries – both to those in the vehicle and those out of it – is considerably increased.
Inadequate post-crash care
Care of injuries after a crash has occurred is extremely time-sensitive: delays of minutes can make the difference between life and death.
Inadequate law enforcement of traffic laws
Effective enforcement includes establishing, regularly updating, and enforcing laws at the national, municipal, and local levels that address the above mentioned risk factors. It includes also the definition of appropriate penalties.
If traffic laws are not enforced or are perceived as not being enforced it is likely they will not be complied with and therefore will have very little chance of influencing behaviour.
The WHO has released Save LIVES: a road safety technical package that focuses on Speed management, Leadership, Infrastructure design and improvement, Vehicle safety standards, Enforcement of traffic laws and post-crash Survival.
Link to the WHO fact sheet on road safety:
Link to WHO news release on Speed Management:
Link to WHO Good Practice Manual on Speed Management (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO Good Practice Manual on Speed Management (Chinese, Russian, Portuguese):
Link to WHO infographic on speed management (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO’s Save LIVES road safety technical package document (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO Global Safety Report on Road Safety 2015 (English) [PDF]: