A new report by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has called for more laws to improve road safety in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
According to the report, countries in the Region of the Americas have made progress on road safety throughout the past decade, particularly in the development and designation of coordinating bodies to tackle these problems, but reforms are still needed to improve laws on speed limits and the mandatory use of motorcycle helmets and seat belts.
PAHO said these are the conclusions of the final report on the Plan of Action on Road Safety (2012-2017), submitted this week to PAHO member-countries during the 56th Directing Council, which brings together all the Region’s health authorities.
The Plan, adopted in 2011 to address the need to improve road safety, established a series of guidelines for health sector actions and initiatives to prevent road traffic injuries, PAHO said.
Every year, road crashes kill about 154,000 people in the Region of the Americas, according to the PAHO report, “Road Safety in the Americas 2016.”
Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists represent nearly half of all these deaths in the region, the report says.
It says road traffic injuries are a public health problem that place a heavy burden on health systems.
“Road safety laws change the culture of mobility, improve the behavior of road users, and contribute effectively to reducing accidents, injuries and deaths,” the report says.
Among other advances, the report also highlights tighter laws on driving under the influence of alcohol and on the use of child restraint systems.
It also identifies positive measures adopted in some countries to improve road infrastructure and implement prehospital care, according to PAHO.
But, the report emphasizes that reforms are still needed to legislate urban speed limits of 50 kilometers per hour, and the mandatory use of helmets for motorcyclists and seat belts for all passengers in a vehicle.
Additionally, the report stresses delays in compliance with or enforcement of laws already passed and urges further advances in national policies to promote walking and cycling.
The report highlights that 30 countries—five more than in 2007—have a committee or agency responsible for the multisectoral coordination of road safety measures.
It says 12 countries have programs monitoring compliance with speed limits—eight more than in 2007; 16 countries—six more than in 2007—have set blood alcohol concentration limits of 0.05 g/dl or less for drivers; and 16 countries have compulsory helmet laws, four more than in 2007.
The report says 23 of 30 countries have laws on the compulsory use of seat belts for all vehicle occupants; 27 countries—six more than in 2007—have adopted laws on the compulsory use of child restraint systems in automobiles; and 23 countries—nine more than in 2007—reported policies that support investment in public transportation.
The report recommends that countries strengthen their road safety policies targeting motorcyclists, in light of the increase in injuries and deaths involving these vehicles in the region.
Motorcyclists injuries rose from 15 percent of total road traffic deaths in 2010 to 20 percent in 2013, the report says.
It advocates taking into account other emerging risk factors, such as distracted driving due to the use of mobile devices and driving under the influence of psychoactive substances.