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Back to Archives | Back to April 2004 Contents 

Highway Safety Initiatives

Worldwide Road Safety Is No Accident

By Patricia Cahill, Executive Director, IACP Foundation; Strategic Plan Administrator, IACP; and Advisor to the IACP National Chiefs Challenge Program

Highway Safety
The IACP joins with law enforcement partners across the world this month to celebrate and promote World Health Day on Wednesday April 7, 2004. World Health Day is an annual event marking the establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO) and this year, for the first time, the WHO has chosen the topic of traffic safety to highlight their growing concern over traffic injuries and deaths around the globe.

According to the WHO, traffic-related incidents take the lives of 1.2 million people and injure millions more. As you might suspect, these numbers are highest in developing countries and even middle-income countries where traffic safety initiatives are underemphasized and where pedestrians and cyclists are much more common on and around the roadways. And in these nations, which can least afford the loss, it is estimated that traffic-related injuries and deaths cost upwards of 2 percent of the gross national product annually.

Clearly, law enforcement along with our public and private traffic safety partners must come together as a global community to address the chronic yet often preventable occurrence of traffic-related injury and death.

Developing an Action Plan

What can you and your agency do to increase community safety and decrease traffic-related crashes? The WHO highlights two key concepts in their efforts to address road safety:

  • Raise awareness. Law enforcement agencies everywhere must work to increase the level of attention paid by both law enforcement and the public to traffic safety initiatives, especially in developing countries where issues such as safe road design, development of enforceable safety laws, and pedestrian or cyclist safety are critical. This goes not only for official channels but also toward increased community awareness of traffic safety issues as well.

  • Generate action. In order to affect change, it is vital to engage stakeholders in dialogue about these issues. Creating partnerships with public health leaders, federal, state and local government officials, and community-based organizations can lead to successful programs that address both behavior modification and enforcement strategies.

Examining the Numbers

Consider these U.S. statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as you develop your traffic safety plan for World Health Day 2004:

  • Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for persons 1-34 years of age and are the leading cause of injury-related death for all ages resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths in 2001.

  • In 2002, alcohol-related crashes accounted for more than 40 percent of all traffic-related deaths.

  • Almost 500 children under 4 years of age died in crashes in 2002 and 40 percent of them were totally unrestrained.

  • If restraint use among motor vehicle occupants age five and older increased to 100 percent, an additional 9,000 lives could be saved each year.

Utilizing Resources

The theme for World Health Day 2004 is "Family Road Safety: Protecting the Ones You Love." The WHO suggests the following events and activities you can use to promote traffic safety in your community:

  • Work with city officials to develop a proclamation for April 7 and organize a press event.

  • Collaborate with media to cover the events you organize celebrating World Health Day, remember to include local traffic reporters as they can easily insert a safety message into their report.

  • Sponsor essay or poster contests in local schools to foster youth interest in traffic safety.

  • Implement incentive programs, providing small prizes, in popular locations such as grocery stores and fast food locations to reward people who are wearing their seat belts and have other occupants, especially children, properly restrained.

  • Encourage local businesses to display public safety messages in their windows or on counters.

  • Encourage volunteerism in the community, have traffic safety professionals volunteer their time to a child seat checkpoint, or have a fundraising event where the proceeds are used to purchase and distribute child seats to families in need.

For more information on ways to maximize your traffic safety efforts during World Health Day on April 7, download the official WHO toolkit at WHO or at CDC .


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 4, April 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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