No fewer than 1.2 million people have died around the world since the beginning of the year in road accidents, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday.
“This year, the world’s roads have claimed some 1.2 million lives,” Ban said in his message to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
He said more than 50 million people were injured yearly through road accidents, with many now condemned to enduring physical disabilities and psychological trauma for the rest of their lives.
Ban said close to 90 per cent of road traffic deaths and injuries occurred in low and middle-income countries with most of the victims as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
He said governments had taken positive steps to address traffic accidents, since more than 100 countries pledged last year to save five million lives by implementing road safety strategies and information campaigns at the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020.
“Governments are acting, for instance Chilean law now requires people travelling on inter-city buses to wear seatbelts. China has criminalised drinking and driving and increased penalties for offenders, and New Zealand has introduced stricter controls on alcohol for younger drivers,” he said.
The UN chief said that countries had also shown commitment to enhance and enforce legislation.
“In Brazil, for example, police are stricter on drinking and driving. In Turkey, seatbelt use has increased from eight to 50 per cent, and in Vietnam, motorcycle helmet use has tripled from 30 to 90 per cent.
“Other countries, including Ghana, India, Mozambique and Pakistan, are improving care for people who have suffered road traffic injuries.
“On this World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, let us commit to minimising road traffic deaths and injuries as part of our quest for an equitable and sustainable future,” Ban said.
He warned that without urgent action, road traffic injuries would become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.
The Day came about following the adoption of a resolution by the General Assembly in October 2005 calling for governments to mark the third Sunday in November each year as the occasion to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes.
It also took into consideration the plight of their relatives who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of the accidents.