Celebrated every two years, this fifth edition of the UN Global Road Safety Week (6-12 May 2019) highlights the need for strong leadership for road safety.
Pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of motorized 2- and 3-wheelers and their passengers are collectively known as “vulnerable road users” and account for half of all road traffic deaths around the world. A higher proportion of vulnerable road users die in low-income countries than in high-income countries.
As average speed increases, so too does the risk of having a road traffic crash and the severity of the consequences should a crash occur. For every 1% increase in mean speed, there is a 4% increase in risk of a fatal crash. A pedestrian hit by a car at 65km/h faces more than 4 times the risk of death than if the car were driving at 50km/h.
Drinking and driving increases the risk of a crash dramatically when the driver has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of above 0.05 g/dl. WHO recommends a BAC limit of ≤0.05 g/dl for the general driving population, and ≤ 0.02 g/dl for young and novice drivers. Only 45 countries have national drink–driving laws that meet best practice.
Wearing a good quality helmet can reduce the risk of death by 42% and severe injury by approximately 70%. Only 44 countries, representing 17% of the world’s population, have motorcycle helmet laws that meet best practice: this means making sure the law applies to both drivers and passengers, all roads and engine types, requires the helmet to be fastened and to meet a specified standard.
Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of injuries and deaths among front seat occupants by 45-50% and rear-seat car occupants by 25–75%. 105 countries, representing 71% of the world’s population, have seat-belt laws that cover both front and rear seat occupants, in line with best practice.
Telephone use while driving (whether hand-held or hands-free) increases the risk of a crash by 4 times, while texting increases the risk by around 23 times. Driver reaction times are 50% slower while using a telephone than without.
Placing children in child restraints reduces the risk of death by at least 60%, particularly for children aged less than 4 years. For children aged 8-12 years, booster seats can reduce the risk of injury by 19% compared to using a seatbelt alone. Best practice laws restrict children sitting in the front seat and require appropriate restraints for age/height/weight.
Lives can be saved with timely care at the scene, prompt transport to hospital for emergency and surgical care, and early access to rehabilitation services. Bystanders can help to save lives by activating the emergency care system and performing simple first-responder actions until professional help arrives.
The safety of vehicles plays a critical role both in averting crashes and reducing the likelihood of serious injury in the event of a crash. The United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations recommends 7 vehicle safety standards including electronic stability control, front- and side-impact protection and pedestrian front protection. Only 40 mainly high-income countries have adopted all 7 or 8 regulations.
Roads should be designed for the safety of all road users. This means ensuring adequate facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Measures such as footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points and traffic calming measures are critical to reducing the risk of injury among these road users.
Road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years. These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility, especially because proven solutions exist to tackle this health and development challenge. Among these solutions is more effective leadership to advance road safety in countries and communities, achieve road safety targets and save lives.
The Fifth UN Global Road Safety Week highlights that everyone can be a leader for road safety! As parents, teachers, students, employees, volunteers and concerned citizens, we can all play a role in engaging with others to advocate for safe roads. We can highlight specific risks on the road, bring these to the attention of community leaders, and demand that they take the concrete measures needed to address them.
Link to Global Road Safety Week 2019 website:
Link to WHO news release:
Link to Death on the Roads data visualization:
Link to Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018:
Link to WHO page on road traffic injuries: