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Updated On: Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Development Issues

WHO on Speed and Road Safety

Content by: South-South News

8 May 2017, New York, USA | South-South News — “Managing Speed,” a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), suggests that excessive speed contributes to one in every three road traffic fatalities worldwide.

Measures to address speed prevent road traffic deaths and injuries, make populations healthier and cities more sustainable.

Dr. Etienne Krug, Director, Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and injury Prevention of the WHO said, “We know what needs to be done. It’s a question of having legislation that is adapted, making sure that there are speed limits set for the function of each of the roads. That these speed limits are enforced, we know how to do that, with cameras etc. We need to make sure that also infrastructure is built with roundabouts and speed bumps so that speeding is not possible.”

Around 1.25 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Studies indicate that typically 40-50% of drivers go over posted speed limits. Drivers who are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes. Road traffic crashes remain the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years. They are estimated to cost countries from 3-5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.

Yet only 47 countries of the world follow good practice on one of the main speed management measures, namely implementing an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less and allowing local authorities to reduce these limits further on roads around schools, residences and businesses.

Krug said, “We won’t achieve the sustainable development goal targets if we don’t tackle speed. It’s a major risk factor, it’s time to do something and do it now.”

Road traffic fatality rates are nearly three times lower in Europe compared to Africa. Countries that have had the most success in drastically reducing rates of road traffic death and injury in recent decades – Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom among them – are those that have addressed the issue holistically. They have prioritized safe speed as one of four components of the safe system approach, along with safe roads and roadsides, safe vehicles, and safe road users.

Within countries, municipal leaders have greatly contributed to a growing movement – often instigated at local level – to transform cities into more livable places for all. By reducing speed and improving safety, their populations benefit from the added advantages of increases in walking and cycling and reductions in air and noise pollution. Such actions, in turn, have positive health benefits on rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

“Managing Speed” was released in advance of the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, 8-14 May 8-14. The week and its related campaign “Save Lives: #SlowDown” aim to draw attention to the dangers of speed and the measures which should be put in place to address this leading risk for road traffic deaths and injuries.


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