GENEVA, Switzerland, May 9, 2017 (ENS) - Half of all drivers worldwide go over the posted speed limit, and excessive speed contributes to one-third of the 1.25 million road fatalities that occur every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.
Highlighting the threat posed by speed, and launching new guidance to make roads safe, WHO is spearheading the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week happening from May 8-14.
The theme of the week is managing speed and what can be done to address speed as a contributing factor to road deaths and injuries.
There's a difference between high-income countries where speed contributes to around one-third of all fatal road traffic crashes, and low-income and middle-income countries where speed is a factor in up to half of all fatal crashes.
"We are here to talk about speed; speed is at the core of the road traffic injury problem. One in three road traffic deaths occur because someone has been driving too fast," said Dr. Maraget Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization.
Global Road Safety Week is being observed around the world in an attempt to bring down the number of people killed on the road.
In Sydney, Australia, Darren Chester, federal minister for infrastructure and transport, launched Global Road Safety Week at the Sydney Opera House.
To bring attention to road safety, the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be lit up in yellow lighting all during UN Road Safety Week.
“Over the coming week governments from across the globe will meet with senior policy makers from a range of organizations to find ways to save lives on our roads,” Chester said. “More than 900 people die as a result of road crashes in the Western Pacific Region every day."
At least 1,300 Australians were killed in road crashes in 2016, and the government has been working closely with industry, state and territory governments to provide a national focus on road safety.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads, Maritime, and Transport, Kevin Anderson said the New South Wales government is proud to be a part the worldwide celebration of the fourth United Nations Road Safety Week. “As a nation and as a state we still have a lot of work to do."
“In 2016, in NSW 384 people were killed and more than 12,000 people were seriously injured. “These are not just numbers, they are real people who leave families and friends behind who will never be the same,” Anderson said.
The 2016 road safety statistics from the European Commission show a drop of two percent in the number of fatalities recorded across the EU last year.
25,500 people lost their lives on EU roads in 2016, 600 fewer than in 2015 and 6,000 fewer than in 2010. A further 135,000 people were seriously injured on the road, according to Commission's estimates.
Following two years of stagnation, 2016 marks the return of a positive downwards trend. Over the last six years, road fatalities have been cut by 19 percent.
While this pace is encouraging, it may nevertheless be insufficient if the EU is to meet its target of halving road fatalities between 2010 and 2020. This calls for further efforts from all actors and particularly from the national and local authorities, which deliver most of the day-to-day actions, such as enforcement and awareness-raising.
Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said, "Today's statistics are an improvement and something positive to build on. But it's not the figures that worry me the most, it's the lives lost, and the families left behind."
"Just today we will lose another 70 lives on EU roads and five times as many will sustain serious injuries!" Bulc invited all stakeholders to "step up their efforts so we can meet the objective of halving the number of road deaths between 2010 and 2020."
In South Africa, Patrick Muchaka, a Cape Town-based transport researcher, is among those calling for traffic calming.
He cites Easter crash figures showing an increase in road deaths to 235 from 187 in 2016 on Easter. In addition, a crash April 21 on the border between Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces killed 20 people, 18 of them schoolchildren on their way home from school.
"With 14,000 lives lost and a 306 billion rand cost per year, the human and economic toll of road traffic crashes should be compelling reasons for us to slow down not only during the Week but thereafter as well," says Muchaka.
But when mandatory speed reductions in South Africa were proposed in 2015, Muchaka says, "Sadly, the reaction to this was largely negative if not outright resistance, and up to now there seems not to have been much progress regarding the approval and adoption of this proposal. Considering this lack of progress in adopting mandatory speed reductions, in my opinion we are therefore still in search of strategies to address speed."
For more information on UN Global Road Safety Week, visit https://www.unroadsafetyweek.org/en/home
PHOTO: Traffic calming zone on Bloor Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Photo by Andres Musta)