Urgent action required to tackle escalating road-traffic crashes worldwide

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday May 5, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday May 4, 2006.

A review in this week's issue of THE LANCET highlights how concerted action is urgently needed worldwide to tackle the global burden of injuries and deaths caused by road-traffic crashes. Attention is specifically required in low and middle-income countries where the numbers of road injuries and deaths continues to rise.

Around 1.2 million people were killed and 50 million injured in road-traffic crashes worldwide in 2002, costing the global community about US$518 billion. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has described the situation as "a worsening global disaster destroying lives and livelihoods, hampering development and leaving millions in greater vulnerability". Without appropriate action, road-traffic injuries are predicted to escalate from the ninth leading contributor to the global burden of disease in 1990 to the third by 2020.

A 2004 WHO report and the subsequent collaboration of 42 agencies worldwide led to the UN General Assembly to pass a new resolution on road safety on Oct 26, 2005. In addition to recommending the implementation of the WHO report to reduce road-traffic injuries and deaths, the UN also called for the organisation of the first UN Global Road-Safety Week (April 2326, 2007); and requested that Member States and the international community recognise the third Sunday in November of every year as the World Day of Remembrance for Road-Traffic Victims.

Associate Professor Shanthi Ameratunga (University of Auckland, New Zealand) and colleagues outline the current evidence for the severe toll that road-traffic crashes have worldwide, and emphasise the under-reported burden in low and middle-income countries.

Dr Ameratunga comments: "Motorisation has enhanced the lives of many individuals and societies. But the benefits have come with a price. Although the numbers of lives lost in road crashes in high-income countries have declined in recent decades, for most of the world's population, the burden of road-traffic injury -- in terms of societal and economic costs -- is rising substantially. A global commitment to implement the recommendations of the 2004 world report, and address the disparities evident in low-income and middle-income countries, is essential. This will only be possible with the concerted effort of policy makers, public-health practitioners, road safety advocates, community groups and other committed partners, working within a common framework, as envisaged and supported by the UN."


Contacts: Shanthi Ameratunga, Associate Professor and Director, Injury Prevention Research Centre, School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand ([email protected]); contact via Helen Borne, Centre Publicist, T) +64 9 3737599 ext 82377 or +64 21 701 180

Robyn Norton, Professor of Public Health, University of Sydney, Principal Director, The George Institute for International Health, Sydney, Australia ([email protected]); contact via Emma Eyles, Public Affairs Officer, T) +61 2 9993 4592 or +61 410 411 983;

Martha Hijar, Investigador Titular, Centre for Population Health Research, National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, Mexico ([email protected])

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