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"1,35 million deaths annually in road traffic accidents is not acceptable, and the fact that this number has been constantly growing is even more alarming," EU Ambassador Walter Stevens said, opening the launch event on Monday evening.
Road traffic accidents are the eighth leading cause of death worldwide and the number one cause of death for children over 5 years old and young adults below 30. In addition to human suffering, road traffic deaths and injuries cause significant economic losses to individuals and societies.
"I would like to underline one aspect of road safety, which often seems forgotten – and that is the developmental aspect. The economic impact road safety fatalities and injuries have on the societies in which they happen is huge," underlined Jean Todt, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety during the launch.
Traffic accidents exacerbate poverty creating an estimated €1,85 trillion burden on the global economy each year.
Faced with improving road traffic safety, simple solutions, such as awareness raising and education, have the potential to save lives.
The Geneva Friends of Road Safety Network, building on the Special Envoy’s efforts and other EU activities, aims to raise awareness on the issue of road safety and to support increased action in the field, including through mobilising funding and increasing development cooperation. The informal network is open to the participation of all ambassadors and international officials accredited to the United Nations Organisation in Geneva.
In order to improve road safety all over the world, the EU and a number of its member states contribute to the UN Road Safety Trust Fund, and the EU has launched several projects in support of road safety with its developing partners. Sweden, an EU member state, will also be hosting the next Global Conference on Road Safety, which is scheduled to take place in 2020.
The EU has improved the safety of its roads significantly in recent decades: European roads are the safest in the world. Despite this, the number of deaths and injuries remains high. In 2017, 25,600 people lost their lives and a further 135,000 were injured in road traffic accidents in the EU.
In March 2019, EU institutions reached a provisional political agreement on the revised General Safety Regulation that concerns road traffic safety in the EU. As of 2022 new safety technologies will become mandatory in European vehicles to protect passengers, pedestrians and cyclists, and to help prevent injury and loss of life.