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UN SG’s Special Envoy for Road Safety and UNECE call on Governments and the automotive industry to implement UN road safety legal instruments

Published: 10 February 2016

The United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, and UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach call on Governments and the automotive industry to implement the United Nations road safety legal instruments. The call was made today at a meeting with the Geneva press corps.

Every year 1.25 million people die around the world as a result of road crashes and 20 to 50 million more are injured. It is the number one cause of death among young people aged 15-29 and takes the lives of 500 innocent children each day.

Today, 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though they account for only 54% of the world’s vehicles. Vulnerable road users (e.g. pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of motorized 2-wheelers and their passengers) account for 50% of the deaths. Africa has the highest mortality rate, with 26,6 victims for 100.000 inhabitants (versus 9,3 in Europe), and represents 43% of road traffic victims.

With the Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted, the international community has committed to halve road traffic fatalities by 2020. This will require accrued efforts from all stakeholders and countries.

Over the past decades, under the auspices of UNECE, the United Nations has developed many conventions governing most aspects of road safety. These legal instruments are in place and at the disposal of countries to help them build safer vehicles and safer roads, with consistent traffic rules and road signs.

Clear national road safety strategies containing goals and targets have also proven successful in many countries around the world, when coupled with information campaigns to mobilize civil society and strengthened enforcement mechanisms. 

Jean Todt and Christian Friis Bach declared: “We urge all UN member States to take their responsibilities and to ratify and fully apply the UN road safety legal instruments. We also call on the motor industry as a whole to ensure that well-established safety standards are applied to all vehicles sold in developing countries. We stand ready, with our partners in the road safety community, to help countries to accede and implement these agreements. We must work together to live up to the promise made by the international community to save millions of lives by 2020”.

Note to editors

UNECE is the custodian of 58 UN conventions and agreements in the field of in-land transport, addressing most aspects of road safety (vehicles and road construction, road signs and signals, etc.). These contain dispositions helping countries to implement legislation addressing all the major causes of crashes:

  • Safe road infrastructure.
  • Speed limits.
  • Motorcycle helmets: wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%.  Law enforcement guarantees brings use rates to increase to over 90%.
  • All safety features in vehicles, in particular:
  • Seat belts: the use of safety belts reduces the risk of fatal injury by 40–50% in the front seats and between 25–75% in the rear seats.  Yet in more than 80 countries in the world seat belts are not yet compulsory in front and rear seats.
  • Child restraint systems: the use of child seats reduces fatality rates from 50 to 80%. Yet, only 53 countries have related legislation.

Drink-driving – Not directly covered by an international agreement - but experience shows that laws based on a blood alcohol concentration limit of no more than: 0.05g/dl for the general population 0.02g/dl for young or novice drivers significantly reduce crashes. Only 34 countries have a drink-driving law in line with this best practice.

Since 2011, 28 accessions to the UN road safety conventions have been recorded, by countries such as Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Moldova, Slovenia, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey and Viet Nam.


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