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U.N. launches global road safety campaign in U.S.

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A new United Nations global road safety campaign, launched in the U.S. last week, is part of a U.N. goal to reduce approximately 51.2 million annual deaths and injuries caused by road-related incidents worldwide by 2030. 

“Road safety is not high enough on the political agenda in most countries,” said Jean Todt, UN special envoy for road safety, in a news release. “ While we know the remedies to road crashes, action is lagging behind. With this campaign, together with the celebrities that are joining us, and our partners JCDecaux and Saatchi & Saatchi, we are trying to revert this and mobilize the political will that is needed to increase actions and financing to save millions of lives.” 

The campaign starts in New York and will use #MakeASafetyStatement in advertisements featured on billboards, social media, and other platforms. The U.N. plans to run the campaign through 2025 in about 1,000 cities in more than 80 countries. 

Celebrities, including tennis player Novak Djokovic, actress Michelle Yeoh and model Naomi Campbell, have agreed to work on the campaign. 

Road accidents are the leading cause of death for individuals aged 5-29, the release. It says 1.2 million people die on the road annually, with another 40-50 million injured. 

“It is a burden for the victims [and] for the family, but it is also a high cost for the countries,” Todt said. 

He said a solution includes education, communication, and law enforcement along with quality roads and vehicles. 

The campaign is part of the U.N.’s “New Decade of Action for Road Safety,” which started in 2021. 

“Unfortunately, (in) a lot of countries mainly in Africa, and in some countries in Asia, in Latin America, the figures are worsening,” Todt said, according to ABC. “That is why we need to work together with the government, together with the private sector to kind of wake up to what I call a silent pandemic.”

ABC reports that the U.N. places road crashes as the second-leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. behind firearms. The article also says the World Health Organization estimates the U.S. fatality rate is more than double that of Europe. 

U.S. traffic fatalities decreased by 3.6% in 2023 but remained higher than in pre-pandemic years, according to preliminary data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in April. 

The federal agency reported 40,990 traffic deaths in 2023 compared to 42,514 in 2022. Nationally, traffic fatalities surged during the pandemic with a 7% (39,007) and 10% (42,230) jump in 2020 and 2021.

NHTSA data also finds that 7,522 pedestrians were killed and 67,000 injured nationwide in 2022. It says a pedestrian is killed every 70 minutes in traffic crashes. 

In May, NHTSA finalized a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) that will make automatic emergency braking (AEB), including pedestrian AEB (PAEB), standard on all passenger cars and light trucks by September 2029.

NHTSA expects FMVSS No. 127 will significantly reduce rear-end and pedestrian crashes, saving at least 360 lives and preventing at least 24,000 injuries every year. 

AEB systems use sensors to detect when a vehicle is close to crashing into a vehicle or pedestrian in front and automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t. PAEB technology detects a pedestrian in both daylight and at night.

In June 2023, NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a separate notice of proposed rulemaking that would require heavy vehicles, including tractor-trailers, to have AEB, which the agencies are in the process of finalizing.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is also conducting a review of  U.S. vehicle safety design standards and their effects on the safety of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists. 


Photo courtesy of Askolds/iStock

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