By MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Government ministers and senior officials from over 100 countries will meet in Stockholm, Sweden from February 19 to 20, 2020 to discuss new steps to halve road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030, in line with global targets agreed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The fact that an estimated 1.35 million lives are lost every year due to road traffic collisions is an outrage. It is an unacceptable price to pay for mobility,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to WHO’s most recent Global Status Report on Broad Safety, road traffic injuries are now the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5 to 29 years.WHO disclosed that more than half of all road traffic deaths occur among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, adding that the risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries.
Moreover, as many as 50 million people experience non-fatal road injuries, which impose human suffering and major economic losses, the international authority on public health said in a Press release.
“Most road traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented, using tried and tested strategies,” added Dr Tedros. “This conference is an opportunity for the world to embrace a new agenda to radically reduce the number of lives lost on our roads and re-think how we can provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.”
Highlighting its finding on progress in road safety, WHO narrated that many countries have already made progress through effective road safety management and focusing on better legislation and enforcement around key risks such as speeding; drinking and driving, and failing to use seatbelts.
“They have also improved infrastructure through measures such as safer sidewalks and dedicated lanes for cyclists; implemented vehicle standards such as those that mandate advanced braking and electronic stability control; and enhanced post-crash care,” it stated.
It pointed out that improvements have occurred when a number of sectors have been involved – including transport, health, urban planning and law enforcement, among others.
Success has also depended mainly on strong leadership and political will at the highest level of government and in close collaboration with civil society and the private sector, WHO related.
“Hosted by the Government of Sweden in collaboration with WHO, the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety offers delegates an opportunity to share successes and lessons learned, chart future strategic directions for global road safety, and define ways to fast-track progress around proven strategies to save lives.”
The Stockholm Declaration will be presented as the final outcome document of the Ministerial Conference calling for strong political will and international cooperation as well as partnerships across many sectors of society.
The Declaration will lay out key recommendations for accelerated action to drive progress towards halving global road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.
“Beyond preventing human suffering and major economic losses, addressing road traffic deaths and injuries has positive impact across all aspects of society and development ─ including those linked to environment, climate change, education, employment, energy, poverty, human rights and equality ─ as outlined in the SDG targets,” WHO said.
Road safety is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015, with two dedicated targets: (a) 3.6 aimed at preventing road traffic deaths and injuries and (b) 11.2 providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
WHO believes that achieving these targets would lead to increases in walking, cycling and using public transport, in other words, those modes of transport which impact most favorably on noncommunicable diseases like heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes.
“It would also contribute to reducing environmental risks, such as air and noise pollution, and steering sustainable urbanization, with less congestion and universal access to safe, inclusive and green public spaces,” it declared.