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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – UN Urges Action to Improve Road Safety - 2004-04-26

Broadcast: April 26, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United Nations has called for a campaign to improve road safety. The U-N General Assembly met earlier this month to discuss the issue. This was the first time the one-hundred-ninety-one members have held a meeting to consider the problem of road safety.

The General Assembly invited the World Health Organization to lead the campaign. The World Health Organization is a U-N agency.

World Health Day this year also centered on road safety. On April seventh, the W.H.O. and the World Bank released the "World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention." The report estimates that road traffic kills more than one-million people a year. Between twenty-million and fifty-million more are injured. Road crashes are a leading cause of death among people age five to forty-four.

The economic loss is huge. The report says road injuries cost one to two percent of national earnings in many less developed nations.

In rich countries, the people most at risk of traffic injuries are drivers and passengers. However, in poor nations, fewer people have money for a car. So people walking along roads or riding bicycles or motorcycles are among those at greatest risk. So are those using public transportation.

The report suggests ways to improve road safety. These suggestions are directed at governments, international organizations and others. For example, the report calls for a government agency in each country to coordinate efforts to improve national road safety. The report also calls for stronger traffic laws and stronger enforcement.

It urges more education about the need to use safety equipment like seatbelts. And it calls for teaching more about the dangers of driving too fast and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The report notes that efforts have been made in some parts of the world to improve road safety. For example, it says rates of traffic injuries and deaths have dropped in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Thailand. Rates have also decreased in many Western nations.

But the report warns about what could happen without immediate action. It estimates that by two-thousand-twenty, road traffic deaths in less developed countries will increase by eighty percent.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.