Message on the occasion of the First UN Global Road Safety Week, 23-29 April 2007
The First United Nations Global Road Safety Week is an important opportunity for improving safety for the hundreds of millions of young people who travel the world's roads every day.
Since World Health Day 2004 and subsequent discussions in the United Nations General Assembly, governments and their partners have paid increased attention to road safety. But we still have a long way to go. Road traffic collisions kill nearly 1.2 million people worldwide every year, and injure millions more. They are the second leading cause of death for people aged 5 to 25, with devastating impact on families and communities. Among this age group, young men -- as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, novice drivers and passengers -- are nearly three times more likely to be killed or injured on the roads than young women.
Fortunately, there is a growing recognition that road traffic injuries can be prevented. It has been demonstrated in a number of countries that by acting on key factors, in particular drunk driving, speeding, infrastructure and the wearing of helmets and seat-belts, a significant number of lives and financial resources can be saved even as motorization continues to rise.
Road safety is no accident. Road safety happens through the deliberate efforts of many individuals and many sectors of society, governmental and non-governmental alike. Every one of us has a role to play: ministers of transport, health and education; health care providers; automobile associations; educators; students; insurers; vehicle manufacturers; the media and victims of road traffic crashes and their families. But a strong commitment at the political level is crucial. Today's success stories often result from a decision at the highest level of government to improve safety on the road.
Through the World Youth Assembly for Road Safety -- the key global event of the First United Nations Global Road Safety Week -- the World Health Organization, UN Regional Commissions and their partners are giving a voice to young people. Let us listen to their advice. And let us improve safety on the world's road, for their sake and for ours.