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María Seguí-Gómez, Director of the European Center For Injury Prevention, University of Navarra, Spain.

It's time to act

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 15:59:01 +0000 Published in Las Provincias, El Norte de Castilla, Diario Sur

The number of road traffic accident victims is alarming. It is estimated that more than 1.3 million people die each year worldwide and another 50 million suffer injuries and disabilities as a result. This figure is higher than that caused by diseases such as malaria. According to forecasts by the World Health Organization (WHO), if immediate and effective measures are not taken, by 2030 road traffic injuries will become the fifth leading cause of death in the world, which result will result in some 2.4 million deaths per year.

goal With the aim of raising public awareness of this problem, in 2005 the United Nations called on governments to celebrate the 'World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims' on the third Sunday in November. In addition to supporting and recognizing the victims and their families, this day should raise our awareness of the magnitude and cost of traffic accidents and encourage governments and institutions to take action to reduce or eliminate this serious public health problem.

Thus, under the slogan "It's time to act", ministers and leaders from 150 countries - including the Spanish Ministry of Health and Social Policy, represented by the European Center for Injury Prevention of the University of Navarra - met in 2009 at the First Global Ministerial Meeting on Road Safety lecture , which resulted in the Moscow Declaration. Following this, in March 2010 the United Nations proclaimed the next decade as the decade of Action for Road Safety, with the aim of reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries.

On this basis, the Assembly called on Member States to commit to actions in areas such as development and enforcement of laws on risk factors: speed limits, drink-driving and increased use of seat belts, child restraint systems and helmets. He also highlighted the need to improve the emergency attendance for the injured, adapt safety regulations applicable to roads and vehicles, and manage road safety more effectively.

He also urged the WHO, together with the UN regional commissions and other stakeholders, to develop a Decade Action Plan, including the possibility of transferring leadership in road safety subject from law enforcement to public health. And it has encouraged the inclusion of activities that take into account the needs of all road users. In particular, pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users living in low and middle income areas.

In this regard, the 'report on global road safety status ', which assesses the status of 178 countries, confirms that although most countries have taken steps to address road safety, additional efforts are needed. For example, it notes that while many countries have a basic legislative framework for road safety, only half have laws related to the five risk factors in driving. Moreover, in many cases, legislation on these factors remains insufficient in coverage. Where laws on these factors exist, they are often inadequately enforced, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Spain is one of the countries where legislation on the five main driving risk factors does exist, with a compliance rate of 7-8 on a scale of 0-10, as well as a vehicle rules and regulations that obliges manufacturers to comply with fuel consumption parameters and the installation of seat belts in all seats.

Other areas for improvement at the global level, highlighted in the aforementioned report, would be the need for a national road safety strategy supported by governments, including specific targets and with sufficient funding; the urgency of meeting the needs of vulnerable groups, especially in middle and low income countries; the relevance of involving multiple sectors such as public health to address road safety in a comprehensive way; and, finally, the importance of having a system for collecting quality data data on road crash victims.

At final, faced with the magnitude of the road accident problem, no country can sit back and consider its work to be finished. Significant progress in national road safety requires close partnership between leaders and the relevant agencies whose policies have a direct or indirect impact on the safety of road users, to whom we direct our research and teaching.