In December 2005, United Nations General Assembly resolution A/60/5 on Improving global road safety called for a Global Road Safety Week. This resolution followed others from both the United Nations General Assembly that reflected the growing concern over the problem of road traffic injuries on the part of governments and of the international public health and development communities.
The First United Nations Global Road Safety Week is an historic opportunity to raise the issue of road traffic injuries to a higher level. During the Week, it is expected that hundreds of initiatives– local, national, regional and global – will take place around the world, organized by governments, nongovernmental organizations, United Nations and other international agencies, private sector companies, foundations and others working for safer roads.
Since World Health Day 2004 and subsequent discussions in the United Nations General Assembly, governments and their partners have paid increased attention to road safety. But we still have a long way to go. Road traffic crashes kill nearly 1.2 million people worldwide every year, and injure millions more. They are the second leading cause of death for people aged 5 to 25 years, with devastating impact on families and communities. Among this age group, young men – as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, novice drivers and passengers – are nearly three times more likely to be killed or injured on the roads than young women.
Fortunately, there is a growing recognition that road traffic injuries can be prevented. It has been demonstrated in a number of countries that by acting on key factors, in particular drink-driving, speeding, the wearing of helmets and seat-belts, and road design and infrastructure, a significant number of lives and financial resources can be saved even as motorization continues to rise.
Road safety is no accident. Road safety happens through the deliberate efforts of many individuals and many sectors of society, governmental and nongovernmental alike. Every one of us has a role to play: ministers of transport, health and education; health care providers; automobile associations; educators; students; insurers; vehicle manufacturers; the media and victims of road traffic crashes and their families. But a strong commitment at the political level is crucial. Today's success stories oft en result from a decision at the highest level of government to improve safety on the road.
Through the World Youth Assembly for Road Safety – the key global event of the First United Nations Global Road Safety Week – the World Health Organization, United Nations Regional Commissions and their partners are giving a voice to young people. Let us listen to their advice.
And let us improve safety on the world's road, for their sake and for ours.
Kofi A. Annan