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UN Launches Global Campaign Against Aggressive Driving - 2004-04-04

The United Nations is launching a Road Safety Week in Europe, central Asia and North America. The campaign is aimed at curbing the soaring rates of road fatalities and injuries, largely due to aggressive driving behavior.

According to U.N. figures, deaths from terrorist attacks pale in comparison to the number of people killed and injured in road accidents every year. The United Nations estimates that road accidents globally kill 1.2 million people and injure 50 million more every year.

It puts the number of deaths in the European and North American region at 150,000 and the number of injured at 5.5 million.

One U.N. transport expert, Jose Capel Ferrer, said 90 percent of automobile accidents occur because drivers do not respect the rules of the road. In particular, he said, aggressive driving is a common cause of many serious accidents.

"Aggressive driving includes speeding - particularly in the presence of pedestrians or cyclists; close following; aggressive flashing or even double-parking," he said. "So there are many forms of aggressive driving. Aggressive driving may also be creating aggressive driving. For example, using the mobile phone and therefore driving too slowly, or driving under the influence of alcohol."

Mr. Ferrer said aggressive driving is not the same as road rage. But he warns that it may lead to road rage, another cause of accidents.

The U.N. statistics also indicate that about 80 percent of the global traffic death toll is in developing countries. It estimates the cost of accidents is equal to between one and two percent of a country's gross domestic product.

Besides improving driving behavior, Mr. Ferrer cited several other U.N. recommendations for bettering road safety. "For example, for long tunnels to include a system of traffic management, to have emergency exits at a maximum distance of 500 meters in tunnels," he suggested. "Vehicles, of course, must be manufactured in accordance with a series of regulations that ensure the highest possible level of safety, active and passive, and that they are internationally harmonized."

Mr. Ferrer said there are many ways of preventing and discouraging aggressive driving. These include increased police controls, heavy traffic fines and punishments, and the re-education of drivers.