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Stemming the tide of lives lost on two wheeled vehicles

With 80 percent of new vehicle registrations in emerging countries being two and three wheeled vehicles, addressing safety for these vehicle types is essential to addressing the high rate of road fatalities.

A roundtable – initiated by the Governments of France, Italy and the United States of America - was organised by UNECE and partners on 23 March to examine this problem. The focus was on identifying the aspects of the existing global road safety conventions, such as the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic and 1968 Conventions on Road Traffic and on Road Signs and Signals, which can be used to effectively guide emerging nations towards safer roads.  It also worked to identify priority research areas that could enhance the utility of either the conventions or the creation of a set of “best practices” for this purpose.

In many countries, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, two and three wheel vehicles have become a highly integrated source of transport with the number of motorcycles on the road expected to double every five years.  Motorbikes and scooters are both a convenient and inexpensive means to facilitate mobility.

However, while these vehicles have become more and more inseparable from transport in the region, they also account for one third of all road deaths in Asia.  In Cambodia, 67 per cent of road deaths involve motorbike crashes, while in Thailand and Laos, it is 74 per cent. The problems in many cases are that the rules governing the use of these vehicles are lax.  It isn’t uncommon in some countries to see children riding in the drivers lap without a helmet, or an entire family of four on one motorbike. Often getting a driving permit is unnecessary and around 80 per cent of the helmets in Asia are considered unsafe.

However, the means to make roads safer and reduce the number of fatalities already exists within the UN Road Safety Conventions. The roundtable gave presentations, concentrating on the UNECE and Asia Pacific regions, discussing critical two-wheel vehicle safety problems, as well as strategies to apply the conventions. The roundtable discussion focussed on balancing the theoretical effectiveness of selected countermeasures with pragmatic.

This discussion was held as part of the 70th session of the Working Party on Road Traffic Safety (WP.1), which is serviced by UNECE. WP.1 is the only permanent body in the United Nations system that focuses on improving road safety. The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2011-2020 the Decade of Action for Road Safety.  In this time, UNECE put together its own comprehensive Road Safety Action Plan for the Decade which includes actions, initiatives and measures related to all UNECE Working Parties, including road safety, road transport, vehicle regulations and the transport of dangerous goods.