Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Agenda item 46
The Global Road Safety Crises
At the outset I would like to thank the Secretary General for his report on the implementation of resolution 60/5 on improving global road safety. I would also like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Government of the Sultanate of Oman for taking the initiative to bring attention to the important issue of the global road safety crises in the world. You may be assured of our full support, for there are no countries immune from this modern scourge, even islands far away from other countries.
The statistics in the Secretary General´s report tell a grim story. Every year nearly 1.2 million people die in traffic accidents and millions more are injured or disabled. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death globally for those between the ages of 10 and 24. This figure is comparable to death rates from malaria or tuberculosis. At the same time, the solution to the problem involves to a large extent awareness raising and persuading motorists to change their behaviour. In other words road traffic injuries can be prevented.
Unlike many other countries, the large majority of road accident fatalities in Iceland do not occur in cities – indeed, the accident rate in built-up areas has declined significantly over recent years and now statistics show that last year over 90% of road accidents in Iceland occurred in the country side. An issue of concern in Iceland is that actions to reduce the number of severly injured in traffic accidents have failed to show results.
Studies have confirmed other findings that attribute road accidents to a number of key factors: speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, failure to use seat belts and poor infrastructure.
In light of this information, the Icelandic Ministry of Transport, Communications and Municipal affairs, has developed a four year traffic safety plan for the years 2007-2010, adopted by the Icelandic Parliament in 2007, as a part of the general transport policy plan.
The main aim of the plan is to take action against driving under influence of alcohol and/or substances, speeding and not wearing seatbelts, as well as introducing measures to improve road infrastructure along with other specified tasks according to the traffic safety plan. The traffic safety plan places special emphasis on road safety education for all children from preschool age until 18 years of age. The aim of the project is that the children will enjoy comprehensive road safety education which will lay the foundation for responsible traffic behaviour and thereby challenge the notion that road accidents are unavoidable.
Icelandic authorities noted with special interest the announcement of the first UN Global Road Safety Week, 23-29 April 2007, which was dedicated to young road users. It was implemented in an effective manner in Iceland with a variety of programmes throughout the week. Interestingly, figures showed a sharp decline in road traffic accidents during the road safety week compared to the same week the year before, and the same trend followed the weeks after. The success of the UN Global Road Safety Week in Iceland was mainly due to successful collaboration between interested parties, such as the government, the police, NGO´s, local authorities and the media.
The UN initiative to organize the UN Global Road Safety Week worldwide underlines the value and significance of international cooperation in the area, especially as regards efforts to be undertaken in the developing countries.
Iceland is proud to be a co-sponsor of the draft resolution (A/62/L.43) on global road safety, introduced earlier today by my friend Ambassador Fuad Al-Hinai. We highly value his proactive and constructive role in bringing this important issue to the attention of the UN.
Road traffic injuries continue to be an important public health and development issue. They threaten to undermine the developmental gains made in many countries and impose a huge economic burden on developing countries. We must therefore intensify our international efforts to raise awareness about global road safety. In this context, Iceland warmly welcomes the offer by the Russian Federation to host and provide the necessary financial support for the First Global High-Level conference on Road Safety to be held in 2009. Such a Conference should complement national and regional efforts to promote road safety and bring together transport, infrastructure and health ministers. It will play an important role in scaling up the political and institutional response to global road safety.
Thank you Mr. President,