The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday cautioned drivers on excessive speed to reduce road accidents globally.
WHO gave the warning in a statement from its headquarters in Geneva, to commemorate the 6th UN Global Road Safety week, which is celebrated between 17 and 23 May annually.
The 2021 UN Global Road Safety week is focusing on campaigns, calling for 30 km/h (20 mph) speed limits to be the norm for cities, towns and villages worldwide.
According to the UN health agency, every year, more than 1.3 million people die in road traffic accidents – that’s one person every 24 seconds.
“Excessive speed is at the core of the road traffic injury problem, with one in three deaths on the roads in high-income countries attributed to speed.
“It is estimated that 40-50 per cent of people drive above the speed limit, with every one km/h increase in speed resulting in a four to five per cent increase in fatal crashes.
“The risk of death and injury reduces considerably when speeds are lowered,’’ it stated.
The world health body stated that since early 2020, mobility had decreased overall due to COVID-19 lockdowns and people working from home.
It stated this had led to fewer road traffic crashes; however, fatality numbers had not decreased in the same proportion because people drive at higher speeds.
The statement quoted WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying, “we need a new vision for creating safe, healthy, green and liveable cities.
“Low-speed streets are an important part of that vision. As we recover and rebuild from COVID-19, let’s make safer roads for a safer world.”
The statement also quoted Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador for the Child Health Initiative, as saying, “so many of us around the world are taking to the streets and demanding change.
“We want low speeds, we want liveable streets, and communities where we can walk safely, where our children can get to school unharmed. We call for 30 km/h speed limits.
“Above 30 is a death sentence. Ms Mandela, granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, lost her 13-year-old daughter, Zenani, in a road traffic accident in South Africa in 2010.”
According to the statement, Ghebreyesus and Mandela have joined the heads of many UN and international agencies, civil society organisations, foundations and private companies in signing an Open Letter calling for 30 km/h speed limits in cities worldwide.
They have highlighted the essential and urgent need to do so to achieve the target of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 and the Global Goals generally.