GENEVA - The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.
In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.
The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.
Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency's Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.
"Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles," Krug said. "So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles."
The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.
Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.
"It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not," Krug told VOA. "Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc."
WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.
However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking.