Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saving lives on the road

Saving lives on the road

More than 2,70,000 pedestrians lose their lives on the world’s roads each year accounting for 22% of the total 1.24 million road traffic deaths. World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on governments to take concrete actions to improve the safety of pedestrians.
Under the banner “Make Walking Safe”, the Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week (6-12 May) has kicked off worldwide. With events registered in nearly 70 countries, the Week seeks to draw attention to the needs of pedestrians; generate action on measures to protect them; and contribute to achieving the goal of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 to save 5 million lives. The week is an opportunity to highlight the myriad challenges that pedestrians face around the world each and every day.
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users. Studies indicate that males, both children and adults, make up a high proportion of pedestrian deaths and injuries. In developed countries, older pedestrians are more at risk, while in low-income and middle-income countries, children and young adults are often affected.
About 1.24 million road traffic deaths occur annually on the world’s roads, making road traffic injuries the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29 years.
WHO supports road safety efforts generally by providing guidance to countries on five key risk factors: speeding, drinking and driving, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints; assisting efforts to improve data collection and trauma care; monitoring progress through global status reports; and serving as the secretariat for the Decade of Action.
There are many steps which can be taken to protect pedestrians on the roads. The newly released Pedestrian safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, produced by WHO and partners, promotes a focus on combined enforcement, engineering and education measures, which include among others:
*Adopting and enforcing new and existing laws to reduce speeding, curb drinking and driving, decrease mobile phone use and other forms of distracted driving.
*Putting in place infrastructure which separates pedestrians from other traffic (sidewalks, raised crosswalks, overpasses, underpasses, refuge islands and raised medians), lowers vehicle speeds (speed bumps, rumble strips and chicanes) and improves roadway lighting.
*Creating pedestrian zones in city centres by restricting vehicular access.
*Improving mass transit route design.
*Developing and enforcing vehicle design standards for pedestrian protection, including soft vehicle fronts.
*Organising and/or further enhancing trauma care systems to guarantee the prompt treatment of those with life-threatening injuries.

Source: World Health Organisation