More than 270,000 pedestrians lose their lives on roads each year, the United Nations health agency said today, calling on governments to improve traffic safety.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pedestrian casualties account for 22 per cent of the total 1.24 million road traffic deaths. To draw attention to the needs of pedestrians and generate action to protect them, WHO organized the Second UN Global Road Safety Week, which kicks off on 6 May with events in 70 countries.

“The Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week offers an opportunity to highlight the myriad challenges that pedestrians face around the world each and every day,” said WHO Assistant Director-General of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Oleg Chestnov.

“We are all pedestrians, and governments should put in place measures to better protect all of us. This will not only save lives, but create the conditions needed to make walking safe. When roads are safe, people will walk more, and this in turn will improve health and protect the environment,” he said, echoing the theme of Road Safety Week, “Make Walking Safe.”

Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users. Studies indicate that males, both children and adults, make up a high proportion of pedestrian deaths and injuries. In developed countries, older pedestrians are more at risk, while in low-income and middle-income countries, children and young adults are often affected. Children and adults with disabilities suffer higher rates of injury as pedestrians compared to their non-disabled peers.

“More than 5,000 pedestrians are killed on the world’s roads each week. This is because their needs have been neglected for decades, often in favour of motorized transport,” said the WHO Director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, Etienne Krug. “We need to rethink the way we organize our transport systems to make walking safe and save pedestrian lives.”

WHO and its partners also released a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, which promotes a combining enforcement, engineering and education measures such as: adopting new laws to reduce speeding, curb drinking and driving, decrease mobile phone use, improve roadway lighting and put in place infrastructure that separates pedestrians from traffic.

The agency also contributes to achieve the goal of to the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. Launched in May 2011 by Governments across the world, the Decade of Action aims to save 5 million lives and seeks to build road safety management capacity in countries, improve the safety of roads and vehicles, enhance the behaviour of all road users and strengthen post-crash care.

Source: United Nations News Centre