"Keep roads safe for children"

Call during UN Road Safety Week 4 - 10 May

News release

WHO/V. Sokhin

More than 500 children a day die from road traffic crashes around the world. Millions more sustain injuries that can lead to long term disabilities and cause untold suffering in families and communities.

In the Western Pacific Region, road traffic injuries kill more than 23 000 children a year or one child every 22 minutes. Rates of road traffic deaths of children are nearly three times higher in low- and middle- income countries (5.7 per 100 000 population) compared to children in high-income countries (2 per 100 000 population).*

Considerable gains have been made in high-income countries in the Region, demonstrating the effectiveness of comprehensive legislation and stringent enforcement, enhancements in the safety of roads and vehicles, and improvements to emergency care services.

Several factors make children more vulnerable to road traffic injury. Their smaller stature can make it difficult to see surrounding traffic or be seen by drivers. Children have softer heads than adults, making them more susceptible to serious head injury. Cognitive factors lead to younger children often having difficulties interpreting sights and sounds. This may affect their judgement when gauging the proximity, speed and direction of moving vehicles. Younger children also often have shorter attention spans and can be impulsive, while adolescents are especially prone to risk taking. All these factors compromise children's safety on the road.

The largest proportion (38%) of children that fall victim to road traffic injuries are pedestrians. This compares to 36% of car passengers, 14% on motorcycles and 6% on bicycles**. This should be compared to the current preoccupation with the development of road infrastructure for cars and vehicle users. There is a need for increased focus on pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.

To mark the Third United Nations Global Road Safety Week, 4-10 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners around the globe will highlight the Organization’s package of 10 key strategies for keeping children safe on the road. These include: (1) controlling speed; (2) reducing drinking and driving; (3) using helmets for bicyclists and motorcyclists; (4) restraining children in vehicles; (5) improving children's ability to see and be seen; (6) enhancing road infrastructure; (7) adapting vehicle design; (8) implementing graduated driver licensing; (9) providing appropriate care for injured children; and (10) supervising children around roads.

Renewed commitment from Member States is required to adopt these strategies, to ensure that legislation is developed and enforced, that consideration is given to vulnerable road users in road planning and that children are educated and supervised on road safety.

This week highlights the plight of children on the world’s roads to generate action to ensure their safety.

As part of the United Nations Global Road Safety Week, a global advocacy campaign called #SaveKidsLives is being promoted by WHO and several Member States. Some events in the Region include:

  • children delivering the “Child Declaration for Road Safety” to policy-makers in Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand;
  • children reporting on road safety in national and/or local media in Hong Kong SAR (China), Malaysia and the Philippines;
  • improving road safety on routes to and from schools and around school grounds in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand;
  • promoting the wearing of helmets for child cyclists and motorcyclists in China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Philippines and Viet Nam;
  • advocating child restraints for children traveling in vehicles in Mongolia;
  • safety checks for the correct installation of child restraints in Australia, China and Singapore; and
  • launching a National Action Plan for Road Safety for Children in Viet Nam.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Public Information Office
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
Telephone: +632 528 9993
Email: serranor@wpro.who.int

* World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates 2014

** Ten Strategies for Keeping Children Safe on the Road WHO, 2015