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One Million Road Deaths a Year: The United Nations Takes Action

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Daniel Rufiange
The aim of the UN’s new campaign is to halve the number of annual road deaths by 2030.

•    Decrying a million deaths on roads every year, the United Nations launches a global safety campaign.

According to the United Nations, more than a million people are killed on the world's roads every year. Some 90 percent of that staggering total occurs in developing countries.

Countries like the United States aren’t spared either; road fatalities number in the tens of thousands annually in the U.S. Last year the total sat at around 40,000 deaths, a drop of 3.6 percent compared to 2022. By way of comparison, there were 1,931 road deaths in Canada in 2022 - a significant number, but proportionately half that of the U.S.

It’s against this backdrop that the United Nations is launching a global road safety campaign, with the obvious aim of reducing the number of fatalities on the roads. The aim is to halve the number of fatalities by 2030.

The advertising campaign will run for two years, educating motorists about basic safety measures such as wearing seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. Emphasis will also be placed on the importance of putting away one's phone while driving.

The campaign was announced by Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, at a press conference announcing its implementation in the U.S.

Traffic in New York
Traffic in New York | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Targeting cities
The ads will appear on JCDecaux billboards in over 80 countries and 1,000 cities, including New York, Chicago and Boston, starting Monday.

The campaign is part of the United Nations' new Decade of Action for Road Safety, which launched in 2021.

And as mentioned, the situation is just as dramatic in developing countries. Said Todt, “Unfortunately, (in) a lot of countries mainly in Africa, and in some countries in Asia, in Latin America, the figures are worsening. That is why we need to work together with the government, together with the private sector to kind of wake up to what I call a silent pandemic.”

According to the United Nations, road accidents are the second leading cause of death in the United States, after firearms. Clearly, many of these deaths are preventable. The World Health Organization estimates that the mortality rate in the United States is more than twice that of Europe. As we've seen, the same is true of Canada.

The success of this kind of campaign
The Autoblog site, which reports the news, points out that in 2014, New York City launched the “Vision Zero” road safety program to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on the roads. It has built hundreds of miles of bike lanes, installed automatic speed cameras and introduced speed zones near schools. Between 2013 and 2023, traffic fatalities fell by 12 percent and pedestrian fatalities by 45 percent.

The campaign can produce results. Of course, much of the responsibility lies with road users.

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
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