The figure is chilling: 130,000 people die each year in the Americas due to the lack of safety on our roads. More than 1.2 million are injured. Three out of every 10 victims of traffic accidents are children and young people. Every day, 120 young adults and children in the Region die from this cause. Losing a loved one is never easy, but knowing that it could have been prevented makes the loss all the more painful.
We must reduce the terrible toll on health, society, and the economy from the lack of road safety. Thus, we recently launched the First Road Safety Week, under the topic "Road Safety is No Accident!," in a joint effort with the Member States, higher education centers, experts in road safety, and youth who are actively working toward prevention of the principal traffic-related risk factors.
The situation in our Hemisphere demands the immediate adoption of public policies that will improve road safety to save lives, prevent resources from being squandered, and increase overall levels of health.
The current death, injury and disability rates resulting from the lack of road safety, and the estimates that augur a worsening of the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean in the coming years, make it imperative for governments, institutions, and all the actors involved to join forces and make a vigorous effort in the area of prevention.
We in PAHO/WHO are promoting a number of instruments of proven effectiveness with the goal of preventing so much injury, death, and suffering. It has recently been said that this is a phenomenon that can and should be remedied, one for which treatment is available. Our vaccines are safer cities and roads for all, particularly in a region with so many inequities in a world that is growing more interconnected with each passing day.
This demands that we foster the development of safe spaces for all, with special emphasis on legislation requiring the use of safety equipment (helmets for cyclists and motorcyclists; seat belts for everyone, including passengers in the back seat; child safety seats) and the reduction of risk factors (especially drinking while driving and speeding).
We must also create a growing awareness among pedestrians, drivers, and society as a whole, but especially children and youth, about the seriousness of the problem and preventive measures. Traffic accidents are the second leading cause of death in the under-25 population and the leading cause in young people aged 15 to 19, resulting in tremendous harm to society. Therefore, it gives us great satisfaction to have helped 21 young people from the Region participate in the drafting of the Youth Declaration for Road Safety in Geneva, Switzerland, and to have been able to count on the participation of deeply committed youth in the First Road Safety Week.
If we all do our part, especially if young people take the controls, we can improve road safety. On the road and at the wheel of prevention, inside and outside PAHO, we are all health workers, for only with safety can we build a better future for all, especially children and young people.
Mirta Roses Periago
En seguridad vial todos somos personal de la salud.
Dr. Eugenia María Silveira Rodrígues
Regional Advisor on Road Safety.