Road safety week 2013

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Vulnerable road users account for 43% of road traffic deaths in the WHO European Region: pedestrians (27%), people using motorcycles or three-wheeled motorized vehicles (12%), and cyclists (4%).

While the proportion of deaths among the second and third groups has increased since 2007, figures for all three vary across the Region. Deaths among pedestrians account for 20% of all road traffic deaths in the European Union (EU), but 33% in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In contrast, cyclist deaths account for 7% of the total in the EU, but 3% in CIS countries.

The Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week, 6–12 May 2013, focuses on the urgent need to protect the most vulnerable road users.

Protecting vulnerable road users

Much can be done to provide safe, reliable and accessible facilities for pedestrians. A range of measures is needed to address the risks, including:

  • managing vehicle speeds;
  • separating pedestrians from other traffic on pavements and crosswalks;
  • increasing pedestrians’ visibility; and
  • ensuring responsible behaviour by all road users.

Although 78% of countries in the European Region have urban speed limits of 50 km per hour or less, much more needs to be done to enforce them. Only 25% of countries report that speed limits are adequately enforced.

Of 51 countries reporting, 34 have legislation on building separate bicycle lanes to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

All countries in the Region have legislation on drink–driving, although 2 do not yet stipulate any limit on the alcohol level in the blood. 42% of countries consider their legislation to be effectively enforced.

Laws to protect vulnerable road users need to be established and enforced, and their development needs to go hand in hand with the promotion of public transport and active transport.

Active transport: the healthy alternative

Guaranteeing the safety of pedestrians encourages people to walk, which improves health. Walking reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression and obesity.

The reduction of travel by motor vehicles also reduces air and noise pollution, with further positive effects on health.

Walking should become the safest and most convenient and pleasant option for most trips.

WHO activities to reduce road-traffic deaths and injuries

In addition to promoting the Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week, WHO/Europe undertakes a range of activities for road safety and the prevention of road-traffic injuries. These include collating evidence on health effects and preventive measures, identifying risk factors and suggesting solutions through policies and interventions.

WHO/Europe supports countries in working to achieve the goal of the Decade of Action on Road Safety (to reduce unnecessary deaths and injuries on the roads) and promotes new thinking that builds safety into the transport system in Europe. In addition, it:

  • supports countries in defining and managing mobility policies that benefit health by developing methods and tools to assess the impact of transport on health;
  • promotes sustainable transport for health; and
  • helps Member States fully to consider transport policies’ implications for health.