At the 64th session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, which closed on Tuesday, one of the leading topics was international road safety.  With over 1.3 million deaths annually, and ranking as the leading cause of mortality among 15-29 year olds and the ninth leading cause of death for all ages, the task of making the world’s roads safe for travel is formidable, to say the least. 

On May 11th, partially in anticipation of the Global Health Summit, dozens of countries around the world kicked off the first global Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. The governments of dozens of countries as far reaching as Russia, Sri Lanka and Nigeria have committed to taking new steps to save lives on their roads. Some of the proposed actions include enacting legislation or stepping up enforcement of helmet, seat belt, child safety restraint, speeding, and alcohol intoxication laws.  Only 15% of countries currently have comprehensive measures addressing all of these factors.

Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists account for almost half of the deaths on the world’s roads.  In a massive effort to curtail these accidents, part of the funding for this initiative will go towards the construction of footpaths and cycle only lanes.  The World Health Organization (WHO), who will provide technical support and monitor the effort, believes that successful implementation of the proposed measures could save over five million lives between now and 2020. 

None of us should have to bear the grief and devastation caused by a road traffic crash,” said Dr Etienne Krug, WHO Director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability. “The steps outlined in the Global Plan for the Decade are immediately doable, and will do much to spare the suffering of so many.”

Photo by Goran Zec.

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About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

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