U.N. Seeks to Curb World's Traffic Deaths

Traffic deaths aren't only a scourge of the developing world. In fact, road accidents remain the leading killer of American youth aged 13 to 24, according to the Make Roads Safe campaign.

"We hear tragedies about school shootings, drug abuse, everything else, but what we forget is that the tragedies we suffer from motor-vehicle crashes on a daily basis dwarf everything else," said Daniel Vocelle, 20, a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who is also a Make Roads Safe youth ambassador.

Vocelle's motivation to join the fight against traffic deaths came after a cousin was killed in a 2006 motorcycle crash. "It was other drivers swerving out in front of him and not seeing," he said. "There are so many accidents now where people are just careless."

Still, certain measures have successfully reduced traffic deaths in the United States and should work elsewhere, experts said.

According to Rosenberg, these interventions include simple, low-cost steps such as installing barriers along the median to prevent head-on collisions; converting four-way intersections into safer traffic circles; and installing speed bumps.

Encouraging governments to beef up policing of reckless or drunk drivers, as well as improving driver training, can also help decrease the carnage, said Rosenberg, who is director of the Decatur, Ga.-based Task Force for Child Survival and Development.

Next year's global summit, which will gather together high-ranking ministers of transport and health from most of the U.N.'s member states, should help spur real change, Rosenberg added.

"We need high-level attention from every country to this problem, so that they can work together to turn this around," he said.

More information

There's more on efforts to reduce traffic deaths worldwide at the Make Roads Safe campaign.

SOURCES: Mark Rosenberg, M.D., director, Task Force for Child Survival and Development, and U.S. member, Commission for Global Road Safety; Linda Degutis, Dr.P.H., president, American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C.; Michelle Yeoh, actress; Daniel Vocelle, Make Roads Safe campaign youth ambassador

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