In 2020, the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims pays tribute to the dedicated efforts of emergency crews, police and medical professionals, who deal daily with the traumatic aftermath of road crashes.
As we enter a new Decade of Action for Road Safety 2020-2021, there are still 1.35 million people dying in road crashes each year and 50 million are seriously injured. The burden of road traffic injuries and deaths is borne by vulnerable road users and 90% of road deaths and serious injuries occur in mid-to-low income countries.
To commemorate the WDOR, the UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) launches this week two social media campaigns to raise awareness about road traffic risks and highlight the importance to invest in quality post-crash services.
The first campaign is a joint initiative of the UNRSF with the European Union (EU), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNECE, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). It consists of 8 video messages from high-level representatives of these organizations.
The campaign is to be launched on the WDOR and will end on 20 November with the 31st anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It's a day to remember that road traffic injuries are currently the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years and Sub-Saharan Africa countries register the greatest number of deaths.
In her message, Olga Algayerova, the Executive Secretary of UNECE, underlines that we have to ensure that "everyone, everywhere, can enjoy safe mobility as a human right imperative". The Director General of the World Health organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expresses in the context of this campaign his concern about road survivors who "face the prospect of long-lasting consequences from the physical and psychological trauma they have endured".
As Covid-19 cases take another sharp rise, transport and mobility remain more essential than ever and solutions exist to reduce the number of victims on the road as reminded by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, who concludes that "Covid-19 has reminded us to revalue human life when one preventable death is too many".
European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, reminds in her video message of the commitment by the international community to halve the number of road fatalities and serious injuries by 2030; a commitment that the EU is taking very seriously and pursuing through international partnerships.
The EU Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Walter Stevens, calls for action " we know the remedy: we know that we need safer roads, safer vehicles, stronger policies, stronger enforcement and also awareness. We need to do more and better to protect our children and our families".
Moving to concrete action, Angelito Umali, Health Officer and Program Manager for UNICEF Philippines, shares the solutions put in place with the UNRSF-financed project "Child-responsive urban planning and sustainable urban transportation" in supporting the government to reduce child road traffic deaths through the conduct of research, advocacy, coalition building and modernizing school zones.
The second social media campaign is a collaboration between the UNRSF and UN agencies that are implementing UNRSF projects such as UNDP, UNECA, UNESCWA, UN-Habitat, UNICEF and WHO. Through testimonies of road crash survivors, we will learn about road safety challenges in low- and middle -income countries and particularly about post-crash services.
Post-crash management can play a significant role in minimizing crash consequences and saving lives, but taxis and private vehicles are too often used after a road crash to transport injured persons. That might be the only way to reach healthcare services as explained by Chris, 29 years in Uganda who lost his wife and their son in a road crash after a head-on collision with a truck. Chris survived because a citizen took him on his motorbike to drive him at the hospital, but his family could not benefit from first aid services.
In Azerbaijan, where the UNRSF finances a project implemented by WHO to support the national plan on road safety, doctors also struggle with post-crash management. According to the traumatologist, Shamistan Hajiyev, the "biggest challenge in his profession is that often the patient is not properly immobilized, even in ambulances, but especially when transported in a regular vehicle by a family/friend or a passer-by. Often injuries can get worse if the patient is not immediately immobilized".
These testimonies from crash survivors underline that the damage of road crashes goes beyond the physical hurt. There is a range of other hidden costs such as psychologist, social and economic impact. This is the story of Habtamu Zerihun hit by a pickup on his way to working in Addis Ababa. The pickup driver was under the influence of stimulant drugs and there were no barriers around curbs to protect other road users. If this tragic accident has left the young man with disabilities forbidding him to return to work, the biggest pain for the father of three daughters is that his children stopped going to school due to his inability to pay for their school fees, books and uniforms. Better street design standards are a component of the UNRSF project "Scaling up safe street designs in Ethiopia", implemented by UN-Habitat. It aims at supporting the street design guidelines and to create an interactive platform for most up-to-date design standards for engineers and practitioner that could help to save lives in the future.
The social media campaign will also honour those whose job is to try to save lives of road traffic victims and to treat and care for them, such as the lebanese Doctor Rony Sayad or the rescuer Andrew Stephenson who save the life of a 10 years boy in Zambia after a search in the midst of the night with torches to find the little boy hit in a road crash. Road crashes are the 3rd cause of fatalities in Zambia and UNRSF finances a new project implemented by UNDP Pedestrians First Zambia ‘’Creating Inclusive Cities’’/Zambia 10 KM Project.
With the slogan "Remember, support, act", the WDOR has become an important tool for governments and all those whose work involves crash prevention or response to the aftermath of crashes and advocate for urgent concerted action to stop the carnage.
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About the WDOR
It is 25 years ago this year since a day dedicated to remembering road traffic victims began to be observed internationally – for the first ten years by the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR) and its many member organizations, including RoadPeace (UK), who introduced the day in 1995. With strong support from WHO and UNRSC members, UN Member States adopted UN General Assembly Resolution 60/5 on 26th October 2005, calling for an annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims as an “appropriate acknowledgement for victims of road traffic crashes and their families”.
The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) is commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year.
This Day has become an important tool for governments and all those whose work involves crash prevention or response to the aftermath of crashes, since it offers the opportunity to demonstrate the enormous scale and impact of road deaths and injuries, call for an end to the often trivial and inappropriate response to road death and injury and advocate for urgent concerted action to stop the carnage.
On World Day we too pay tribute to the dedicated emergency crews, police and medical professionals, who deal daily with the traumatic aftermath of road crashes. More information https://worlddayofremembrance.org/.
The objectives of WDoR 2020 are to provide a platform for road traffic victims and their families to:
- Remember all people killed and seriously injured on the roads;
- Acknowledge the crucial work of the emergency services;
- Draw attention to the generally trivial legal response to culpable road deaths and injuries;
- Advocate for better support for road traffic victims and victim families;
- Promote evidence-based actions to prevent and eventually stop further road traffic deaths and injuries.
About the UNRSF
Established in April 2018, the United Nations Road Safety Fund aims to contribute to two major outcomes, assisting UN Member states to (a) substantially curb the number of fatalities and injuries from road traffic crashes, as well as (b) reduce economic losses resulting from these crashes. Building on the best practices and expertise developed through the Decade of Action for Road Safety, the Trust Fund will focus on supporting concrete actions helping to achieve the road safety-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Secretariat of the Fund is hosted by UNECE.
More information about UNRSF projects: http://www.unece.org/unrsf/projects.html