Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland
to the United Nations
Agenda item 60:
The Global Road Safety Crisis
I would like to thank the Secretary General for the progress report on the implementation of resolution 58/289. I would also like to pay tribute to Oman for its determination over a number of years in bringing attention to a serious threat to personal security in the world.
The seriousness of this issue is clear from the statistics. Nearly 1.2 million people die every year in traffic accidents; this figure is comparable to death rates from malaria or AIDS, as previous speakers have pointed out. At the same time, the solution to the problem involves to a large extent persuading motorists, which is many of us, to change our behaviour.
Iceland has taken seriously the recommendations of the World report on road traffic injury prevention. Unlike many other countries, the large majority of road accident fatalities in Iceland do not occur in the city – indeed, the accident rate in built-up areas has declined significantly over recent years, while 3/4 of fatal accidents now occur in the countryside.
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 the light of this information, the Icelandic Ministry of Transport has developed a four-year road safety improvement strategy which started last spring.
Thirteen thousand kilometres of road stretch across Iceland with a population of 300.000. This means that resources need to be targeted carefully when improving road infrastructure. A cost-benefit system is used to assess where improvements are most urgent.
Last summer the Government launched an initiative to reduce speeding and improve seat-belt use on out-of-town highways. A contract was made with the police to double surveillance for these issues. In addition, special cameras were installed in certain police vehicles. The campaign was carried out from June to September as this is the time when roads are busiest. First results from this initiative suggest very positive results. Average speed appears to have fallen – it is calculated that a drop of one kilometre per hour average speed means a 3% drop in the accident rate.
The Icelandic authorities are now preparing a similar campaign against driving under the influcence of alcohol and other drugs, which will be applied year round. Also in preparation is the establishment of a network of automatic speed cameras. This is a longer term project and requires both technical preparation and possibly new legislation.
We know that the deaths of 1.2 million individuals, however tragic, are only the tip of the iceberg of suffering caused by traffic accidents. Traffic accidents have a major economic impact on many families and thus on many national economies. Iceland is again proud to be a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, this time A/60/L.8, introduced earlier today by my friend Ambassador Fuad Al-Hinai.
Thank you Mr. President,