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WHO report highlights traffic safety in China
By Zhang Feng (Chinadaily)
Updated: 2004-10-12 00:32

A report on road safety released Tuesday may help China reduce traffic accidents, which kill and injure hundreds every day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 600 people are killed and more than 45,000 injured daily on China's roads.

Realizing the size of the problem, the WHO, the World Bank, the ministries of health and public security released the first Chinese-language edition of the "World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention" yesterday in Beijing.

This publication explains the main causes of road traffic injury and offers recommendations for road safety.

It will provide valuable guidance for China to cut down on problems, such as traffic jams and accidents, which are increasing alongside the country's fast economic growth, said Wang Jinbiao.

Wang, deputy director of the Traffic Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, made the remarks at a ceremony to mark the publication of the report.

The huge death toll in China is part of the global epidemic of traffic incidents that account for the deaths of some 1.2 million men, women, and children each year, the report says.

Road traffic fatalities in China are predicted to increase to almost half a million per year by 2020 unless urgent action is taken.

In China, injuries from road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people 15 to 45 years old, said the WHO.

Most collisions are caused by drivers that violate traffic rules, leading to 86.3 of traffic deaths and 77.3 per cent of injuries, Wang said.

Due to poor road conditions, a shortage of necessary measures and a lack of prevention, rural residents, farmer-turned workers and self-employed businessmen in urban areas are the main are often the victims, making up 39.2 per cent of people killed on the road.

Meanwhile, motorcycles drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, who violate traffic rules, are also frequent victims.

Beyond the loss of human life, poor road safety has an enormous economic impact.

Annual direct and indirect costs have been estimated at between $US12 to 21 billion, approximately 1.5 per cent of China's GDP, the report notes.

The Chinese Government has made road safety a priority. It created a 15-ministry committee under the State Council and introduced the first Road Traffic Safety Law in China which took effect on May 1 this year.

These are important first steps. The law, when fully implemented and enforced, has the potential to significantly reduce road trafficinjuries, the WHO said.

The WHO has also called on the government to embrace and implement other recommendations of the "World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention" in China.

Both the health and public security ministries responded to the call and promised to do better to reduce traffic deaths.

WHO promises to stand ready to offer assistance and expertise to assist China implement changes.

"The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention" compiles and summarizes evidence that suggests crashes and injuries can be effectively prevented through simple strategies such as seatbelts for adults and children.

Other possible measures include legislating and enforcement of speed limits and drink driving statutes, and increasing the visibility of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

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