Press Releases

                                                                                                                        29 March 2004

Secretary-General, in World Health Day Message, Says Road Safety Can Prevent Needless Suffering, but Does not Happen by Chance

NEW YORK, 26 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on World Health Day, observed 7 April:

“Road safety is no accident”, the theme for this year’s World Health Day, reminds us that road safety does not happen by chance.  Achieving and sustaining safety on the roads requires deliberate action from many sectors of society.

Despite enormous improvements in road safety in some countries over the past few decades, nearly 1.2 million people are killed every year in road traffic crashes around the world.  Most of these deaths, each of which is a personal tragedy, occur singly and draw no attention from the world’s media.  About 90 per cent happen in developing countries, most of them among pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and passengers of public transport. Between 20 and 50 million more people are seriously injured in such incidents every year, often resulting in disability.

Beyond the human suffering they cause, road traffic injuries result in considerable additional costs to societies.  Globally, more than half of of all victims are between the ages of 15 and 44, the age at which an age they would be most able to contribute to the livelihood of their families and communities.  This loss of breadwinners has enormous implications for security of families.  And estimates show that road traffic injuries cost nations as much as 2 per cent of their gross national products.

Yet most of this loss can be prevented -- by tackling dangerous driving, such as speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol; by promoting the use of helmets and seat belts; by ensuring that people walking and cycling are more visible; by improving the design of roads and vehicles; by enforcing road safety regulations; and by improving emergency response services. The key to successful prevention lies in the commitment of all relevant sectors, public and private -- health, transport, education, finance, police, legislators, manufacturers, foundations and the media -- to make road safety happen.

Road safety is a crucial concern for both public health concern and development, and this year’s observance of World Health Day has generated much interest and enthusiasm. As another component of the campaign for road safety, the World Health Organization and  the World Bank have issued a world report on road traffic injury prevention. Parallel advocacy efforts are under way in the United Nations General Assembly. Building on this momentum, hundreds of groups around the world are focusing attention on the dreadful consequences of road traffic injuries, stressing that they are avoidable and calling for action to prevent the millions of needless deaths and injuries. On this World Health Day, let us join together to rededicate ourselves to that mission.

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