A report from the World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 lives are lost and more than 45,000 people are injured on China’s roads every day.
People living in low and middle-income countries suffer the most. “They have about 90 percent of all road traffic deaths and disabilities, said the WHO. That could soon rise to 95 percent if steps aren’t taken to confront the problem.
“The huge road toll in China is just a part of a global epidemic of road traffic accidents that accounts for the deaths of some 1.2 million men, women, and children each year,” said the WHO. Unless some action is taken, the organization estimates that China will have half a million deaths each year by 2020.
The report also pointed out: “Beyond the loss of human life, poor road safety has an enormous economic impact. Annual direct and indirect costs have been estimated at between $US 12 to 21 billion, approximately 1.5 percent of China’s GNP.
In China, injuries from road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people 15 to 45 years old. They have wide social and economic impact. They are the second leading cause of premature death, causing a drain on productivity due to short- and long-term disability. Victims’ families suffer from an increased burden of care while facing reduced incomes and higher medical expenses. Traffic-related injuries also increase the burden on the police, courts, insurers, medical systems, and others.”
Having recognized the problem, the WHO is working with the World Bank to make road safety an area of urgent priority. They have released the first Chinese- language edition of “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention.” The publication, launched globally on World Health Day 2004, explains the facts of road traffic injury and offers recommendations for road safety to all governments.
“The Chinese Government has made road safety a priority, shown by the formation of a 15-ministry committee under the State Council and the introduction of the first Road Traffic Safety Law in China which took affect on May 1 this year,” the announcement noted. “These are important first steps. The law, when fully implemented and enforced, has the potential to significantly reduce road traffic injury in China.” The WHO said it “stands ready to offer assistance and its international expertise to assist China in implementing the program when and where necessary.”
It also noted: “Reducing road injury is not difficult. The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention has compiled and summarized the best evidence that suggests that road crashes and injuries can be effectively prevented through implementing simple strategies such as safety belts for adults and children, legislating and enforcing speed limits and drink driving statutes, and increasing the visibility of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Road safety is a multidisciplinary problem that needs a joint effort between the Government, public health authorities, vehicle manufacturers, international donors, communities, civil society and individuals. They must be prepared to work cooperatively in areas of institutional development, policy, legislation and enforcement. That is the only way to reduce the deaths on China’s roads. Road safety is no accident, and the choice lies in our hands”.
The Website for the World Report for Road Traffic Injury Prevention was launched in mid-July 2003, and will be updated regularly as related materials become available to the public. The above-mentioned WHO official document can be accessed at http://www.who.int/world-health-day/2004/, including additional INFORMATION DOCUMENTS: WHO Newsletter on Road Safety, April 2004; Brochure; POLICY DOCUMENTS: UN General Assembly: Report of the Secretary-General on the Global road safety crisis; A 5-year WHO strategy for road traffic injury prevention.
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