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Road Safety Measures Can Prevent Millions of Deaths, Injuries

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A car is seen after frontal-crashing during a test at the laboratory of the German motor club ADAC in Landsberg, Dec. 6, 2013.

FILE - A car is seen after frontal-crashing during a test at the laboratory of the German motor club ADAC in Landsberg, Dec. 6, 2013.

The United Nations reports 1.25 million people die in road crashes every year. It says its road safety measures could save millions of lives.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Europe reports road crashes are the number one cause of death among people aged 15 to 29.

The ECE, which regulates and sets road and vehicle safety standards, says another 20 to 50 million people worldwide are injured in these accidents.

Countries most at risk

It says 90 percent of the 1.25 million road deaths worldwide occur in low-and middle-income countries, although they account for only 54 percent of the world’s vehicles. It notes Africa has the highest fatality rate, representing 43 percent of road traffic victims.

UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach says these deaths and injuries result in tremendous loss for grieving families and severe economic costs for society. He says societies have to pay the health costs of people who are badly injured and can no longer work and be productive.

Bach says ways to avoid road crashes are known and the auto industry knows how to produce safe cars, which are universally sold in Europe, North America and other developed countries.

“But when they sell the same car in Africa and in Latin America, they take out the safety features. They take out the airbags. They weaken the frame. They produce cheap cars that look exactly like the cars we see on the roads in Europe, but when people crash, they get killed,” he said.

Basic safety measures

Bach says manufacturers can implement key safety measures in their vehicles without significant cost. He says a package of measures that can save lives, including air bags, autonomous braking systems and seat belts, would cost less than $200 per car.

ECE chief Bach notes too many pedestrians in Africa lose their lives because roads do not have simple safety measures such as proper crossing points. He notes the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other development institutions and agencies that pay the cost of infrastructure in Africa should insist road safety measures be implemented.

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