PAHO calls for measures to decrease road traffic deaths

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PAHO calls for measures to decrease road traffic deaths

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is urging countries in the Americas, including the Caribbean, to do much more with regards tostopping the increase in road traffic deaths.

A new PAHO report shows that the number of road traffic deaths continues to rise in the Americas, reaching almost 155,000 per year, 11 per cent of the world's total.

The report, titled “Status of Road Safety in the Region of the Americas”, highlights that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children aged five to 14 years, and the second highest cause of death for young people aged between 15 and 29 years. It is also the tenth highest cause of death for all age groups.

“These findings indicate the need to prioritise the prevention of these injuries with proven interventions that we know work,” said Dominican-born PAHO director Dr Carissa F Etienne.

“Road traffic injuries not only take the lives of thousands of people each year, but they also leave thousands more with disabilities, emotional and financial distress, and place a heavy burden on health services,” she added.

The new report presents the latest data on mortality (2016), legislation (2017), evaluation of roads (2017) and vehicle standards (2018) reported by 30 countries in the Americas. It highlights that while there have been advances in road safety legislation and management, and follow-up care for those affected, the goal of reducing road traffic deaths by half by 2020 will not be achieved.

With 15.6 deaths per 100,000 people, the Americas has the second lowest road traffic fatality rate compared to other WHO regions. However, there are variations between sub regions and countries.

The Latin America and Caribbean region has a record of 21.1 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants while the non-Latin Caribbean record stands at 16.7.

Fatality rates vary from country to country and are also influenced by levels of development.

According to the report, road traffic fatality rates in Barbados and Canada are less than half the regional average – 5.6 and 5.8 per 100,000 population, respectively – while St Lucia and the Dominican Republic have double the regional fatality rate at 35.4 and 34.6, respectively.

Motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists are the most affected

Almost half of those who die due to road traffic injuries are motorcyclists (23 per cent), pedestrians (22 per cent) and cyclists (three per cent), who are considered vulnerable road users because they have minimum protection and no alternative but to use unsafe road infrastructure.

The percentage of motorcycle victims increased from 20 to 23 per cent between 2013 and 2016, which is likely related to a 23 per cent increase in the number of registered two and three wheeled vehicles during the same period.

The report analyses advances in national legislation that address the five key risk factors to prevent road deaths and injuries. These include speeding, drink-driving, and failing to use seatbelts, motorcycle helmets and child restraint systems.

Since 2014, two additional countries – the Dominican Republic and Uruguay – have implemented laws on driving under the influence of alcohol, while Ecuador implemented legislation on the use of helmets.

The Dominican Republic implemented legislation on the mandatory use of seatbelts, while Chile implemented laws on the use of child restraint systems.

However, no new laws have been enacted on reducing speed limits, a key measure that saves lives, with only five countries ensuring standards that align with best practice, introducing maximum speed limits of 50 kilometres per hour on urban roads.

“The enactment of laws and their effective enforcement are key to preventing road traffic deaths. However, this remains a challenge for most countries,” said Eugenia Rodrigues, Regional Advisor on Road Safety at PAHO.

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