Road safety – a major concern

An estimated 1.3 million people worldwide are killed each year on the roads – more than 3000 people die every day, including 500 children. In addition, 50 million people are estimated to be injured in road crashes each year. Road crashes are a man-made disaster on the same scale as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Many victims are the main provider of household income and, when injured or killed, their families are left without economic support. In addition to the grief and suffering they cause, road traffic crashes result in considerable economic losses to victims and their families.

These injuries and fatalities place substantial economic burdens on developing nations. In fact, the costs often exceed the total development assistance that these countries receive in foreign aid each year. So there is a direct link between road safety improvement and poverty reduction.

The IFRC’s road safety engagement

The International Federation has identified building a ‘culture of risk reduction and prevention’ as one of its underlying priorities in all its activities. Improving road safety to save lives and livelihoods and build safer communities is part of that policy.

In its 1998 World Disasters Report, the IFRC was one of the first organizations to ring the alarm bell about the extent of the global road safety crisis.

Following this report, the IFRC, the World Bank and the British Government's Department for International Development (DFID), decided to create the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) to bring together governments and governmental agencies, the private sector and civil society to urgently address road safety issues, especially in low- and middle-income countries, where a catastrophic situation continues to deteriorate. The Global Road Safety Partnership has become the IFRC’s reference centre on road safety.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were recognized as key partners in the Resolution on Improving Global Road Safety (UN Resolution 64/255), adopted by the United Nations in March 2010, which proclaims a Decade of Action for Road Safety from 2011 to 2020.

A pledge on road safety will be presented for signature by National Societies and their respective governments at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, held in Geneva from 28 November to 1 December 2011. It is meant to support the implementation of the UN resolution, by committing National Societies and their governments to work together to reduce road crash death and injury.

Road traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented, and the Decade of Action for Road Safety is an opportunity to save millions of lives.

Road safety facts

  • Today, approximately 3000 people will die in road crashes. That represents roughly ten aircraft crashes every day.
  • Globally, road traffic crashes have become the leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years. Low- and middle-income countries account for more than 85% of global deaths from road traffic crashes.
  • Nearly half of those dying on the world's roads are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Millions more people often remain disabled for life.
  • The global financial cost of road traffic injuries is US$518 billion each year – we are losing an economy the size of Switzerland every year.
  • The cost to low- and middle-income countries is US$ 65 billion, more than all incoming development aid.
  • Road crashes take up much-needed health care resources in communities that often suffer from other severe health issues.
  • By 2020, unless action is taken, road traffic injuries are predicted to rise overall by about 65 per cent.

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