UN Cites Road Accidents to be the Greatest Threat to Children’s Lives


Written by Veronika Bradley, Editor for Children’s Health and Safety Association – May 25, 2015 and Republished by Diligencia Investigative Reporting – April 2019

The UN General Assembly states there is no greater threat to the lives of children than a road traffic accident.

The 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety indicates there are 1.24 million road traffic deaths annually in 182 countries – of which 186,300 are children.  This number equates to 510 children dying every day from road traffic accidents around the world.

The World Health Organization states, “By 2030, road traffic injuries will be the fifth leading cause of childhood death worldwide and the seventh leading cause of years lost to ill-health, disability or early death.  Worldwide, road traffic injuries account for 23% of all child deaths due to injury.”

Only 28 countries, or 7% of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety regulations on five key risk factors including drinking and driving, speeding, failing to use motorcycle and bicycle helmets, seat belts and child restraint systems.

The likelihood of death from road traffic injuries among children in low and middle-income countries is almost twice as high as high-income countries - whether children are seated in car seats, walking or cycling. 

To combat the daily loss of children’s lives on roadways, the UN global campaign proposes the following strategies.

  • Control speed on all roads, and where there are high concentrations of pedestrians, a maximum speed limit of 30 km should be enforced.
  • Reduce drinking and driving.
  • Bicyclists and motorcyclists should wear helmets and have reflective strips and headlamps.
  • Children should be restrained in car seats, booster seats and seat belts appropriate for their age, weight and height.
  • Crossing guards should be appointed at all schools.
  • Children should be visible on or near roadways at all times.
  • Street lighting should be improved.
  • Traffic should be controlled with enhanced road infrastructure.
  • Create car free zones.
  • Vehicles should be redesigned to ensure they are safer for passengers and pedestrians.
  • Driving classes, tests and licenses should be established to reduce risks for young drivers.
  • Improve post-crash emergency and trauma medical care, equipment and staff for injured children.
  • Children should be supervised on or near roadways at all times.

With the resolution A/RES/64/255 of May 10th, 2010, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2011 to 2020 as the ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’.  Their goal is to stabilize and reduce road traffic fatalities around the world by increasing safety measures and activities conducted at the national, regional and global levels. 

Initiatives and events are being organized in several European countries including press conferences, radio and television broadcasts and competitions.  The World Health Organization is supporting initiatives in Albania, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Turkey and Uzbekistan.  Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden are also organizing events.

  • Slovakia is providing drivers with information on First Aid and safety precautions.
  • The Ministry of Transport in the Czech Republic is organizing activities and working with non-profit organizations, schools and private companies to improve road safety.
  • With the support from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior and other stakeholders, Lithuania is organizing a workshop for good road practice and safety.
  • The leading cause of mortality in China for children from one to four years of age is road traffic accidents. In 2013, the Ministry of Public Security confirmed that 3,994 children under the age of 18 died due to accidents, and 17,955 were injured.  A seminar on child road safety will be hosted by the Government of China with support from UNICEF and other partners urging legislation for infant and child car restraints, school safety zones, safe drop-off and pick-up points, designated play areas for children away from the roadways, car-free zones and the use of qualified school buses, especially for rural children.
  • In Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Guatemala, Lithuania, Peru and Venezuela children are delivering the “Child Declaration for Road Safety” to policy-makers.
  • In Ghana, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Russian Federation, South Africa, Thailand, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia children are reporting on road safety in national and/or local media.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Iran, Jordan, Malawi, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Sudan and Yemen are improving road safety routes to and from schools and around school grounds.
  • Afghanistan, Italy, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Morocco, United States and Viet Nam are promoting helmets for child cyclists and/or motorcyclists.
  • Mongolia, Oman, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic and Uruguay are advocating for child car restraints. 
  • Nigeria, Togo and Uganda are instructing children how to cross roads safely.
  • Indonesia, Romania and Slovakia are offering first aid demonstrations.
  • Ireland and Luxembourg are remembering victims of road traffic crashes.
  • Brussels, Belgium is hosting the European Union “Open Doors Day” dedicated to road safety.
  • San Jose and Costa Rica are organizing the “Child Road Safety in the Americas Congress.”

‘SaveKidsLives’ is a social media campaign that is being promoted in some European countries this year.  People are encouraged to practice good safety road measures by printing and customizing ‘SaveKidsLives’ banners with photos of themselves wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraint systems.

The campaign is asking people to sign the Children's Declaration on Road Safety and urging decision-makers worldwide to enact legislation to protect our children.

The Third UN Global Road Safety Week, which took place last month, focused on children and road safety and contributed to efforts in halting the increasing number of road crash deaths.  Their goal is to save 5 million children’s lives by 2020.

Global financial losses due to road traffic injuries total $518 billion and cost governments between 1 and 3% of their gross national product.

The first World Youth Assembly for Road Safety consisting of 400 delegates adopted the Youth Declaration for Road Safety in 2007.  The Declaration calls on all young people to "stand up and participate in local and national campaigns and programmes" and urges adults to play their part as parents and leaders.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on April 10, 2014, to improve road safety. 


Additional Resources


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