WHO launches the 2nd global status report on road safety 2013

Road safety in Viet Nam
Chau Doan/WHO

On 14th March, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the Global status report on road safety 2013: supporting a decade of action in Geneva.

The report shows in 2010, there were 1.24 million deaths worldwide from road traffic crashes, roughly the same number as in 2007. The report shows that while 88 Member States were able to reduce the number of road traffic fatalities, that number increased in 87 countries.

Key to reducing road traffic mortality will be ensuring that as many Member States as possible have in place laws covering the five key risk factors listed above. The report highlights that:

  • 59 countries, covering 39% of the world’s population, have implemented an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less and allow local authorities to further reduce these limits.
  • 89 countries, covering 66% of the world’s population, have a comprehensive drink-driving law, defined as a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05 g/dl or less.
  • 90 countries, covering 77% of the world’s population, have motorcycle helmet laws which cover all riders on all roads with all engine types and have a motorcycle helmet standard.
  • 111 countries, covering 69% of the world’s population, have comprehensive seat-belt laws covering all occupants.
  • 96 countries, covering 32% of the world’s population, have a law requiring child restraints.
Road safety in Viet Nam's capital Hanoi
Chau Doan/WHO

The report also highlights that most countries – even some of the best performing in terms of the safety of their roads - indicate that enforcement of these laws is inadequate.

"Political will is needed at the highest level of government to ensure appropriate road safety legislation and stringent enforcement of laws by which we all need to abide," said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "If this cannot be ensured, families and communities will continue to grieve, and health systems will continue to bear the brunt of injury and disability due to road traffic crashes.”

In the Western Pacific Region, individually, 14 countries reduced road deaths while they increased in 10 other countries. “We must do better," said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. "Road safety is about more than health. It is also about economic development. Road injuries cost our Region up to 3.5% of its gross domestic product.”

"The Global status report on road safety 2013 serves as a strong warning to governments that more needs to be done to protect all those who use the roads," said Mr Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City, whose foundation funded the report.

Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death and disability in Viet Nam. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 15,000 people were killed – more than 40 each day - and a further 400,000 people hospitalized with serious injuries from road traffic crashes in 2010.

As the leading cause of death in those aged 15-44 in Viet Nam, the victims of road trauma are the most economically active segment of the population. Viet Nam loses approximately 2.9% of GDP each year to road traffic crashes, which has a profound effect on the national economy and growth.

Viet Nam’s success in the implementation of mandatory motorcycle helmets has been recognized the world over, seen as a case study for the development and implementation of effective road safety, particularly in regional and neighboring countries with a high proportion of motorized two wheeled transport.

Counterfeit helmets being sold in Viet Nam
Chau Doan/WHO

Whilst helmet wearing rates have been maintained at more than 90% since 2007, challenges still remain. Despite the law mandating children from 6 years of age wear helmets, less than 40% of children comply. “With millions of children travelling by motorcycle each day, the majority are being needlessly exposed to a much greater risk of serious or even fatal head injuries” said Dr Takeshi Kasai - WHO Representative in Viet Nam.

The substandard quality of many helmets worn in Viet Nam is also of great concern. Research by WHO in 2012 showed that more than 80% of helmets being worn by motorcycle riders did not meet the requirements of the national quality standard, particularly for impact protection. “Substandard helmets provide virtually no protection in the event of a crash” said Dr Kasai.

Drink—driving is another major risk factor for road safety in Viet Nam. A study conducted by WHO in 2010 showed nearly 28% of motorcycle riders admitted to hospitals had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over the legal limit.

“Stringent police enforcement has been shown to be one of the most effective approaches in reducing alcohol related road traffic crashes” said Dr. Kasai.

“With comprehensive legislation already in place for both motorcycle helmets and the prevention of drink—driving, major progress has been made in the effort to reduce the impact of these priority road safety risk factors in Viet Nam. Now the focus must be on implementation and enforcement for the potential to be realized” he concluded.

For more information, please contact

Ms. Tran Thi Loan
Tel: 84-4-943 3734/5/6 (ext. 83886)
Mobile: 84-090 488 7997
Email: media.vtn@wpro.who.int

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