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Switzerland teams up with EU to make roads safer

Someone dies in a road accident every 30 seconds Keystone

To mark World Health Day on Wednesday, the World Health Organization has launched a campaign designed to raise awareness of road safety.

This content was published on April 7, 2004 - 12:30

At the same time, Switzerland has joined forces with the European Union to attempt to halve the number of road traffic deaths by 2010.

According to the WHO, road traffic accidents claim a new victim every 30 seconds and kill 1.2 million people around the world annually.

Last year, the number of people who died on Swiss roads increased to 549, representing a seven per cent jump from the previous year.

At a conference of European transport ministers in the Irish capital, Dublin, on Tuesday the Swiss transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, demanded stricter traffic controls to improve road safety.

The transport ministry also called for road traffic regulations to be coordinated throughout Europe.

European charter

At the conference, Switzerland joined forces with the EU, Iceland and Norway in launching a European charter for road safety.

The initiative has the backing of the Swiss Federal Health Office, the Federal Roads Authority and a number of road safety organisations.

Research by the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention has shown that the number of traffic deaths in Switzerland could be halved if the blood alcohol limit was reduced to 0.5 milligrams per millilitre (a level which is set to be introduced in 2005), the speed limit was lowered by an average of five kilometres, and all drivers and passengers wore a seat belt.

In the majority of accidents human error is to blame, according to Rudolf Dieterle of the Federal Roads Authority.

Crackdown

Since 2001, when 11 people died in a traffic accident in the Gotthard tunnel, Switzerland has cracked down on drunk drivers and spends SFr20 million ($15.5 million) annually on road safety checks.

The accident was caused by a head-on collision between two trucks. The driver of one of the vehicles was found to have exceeded the blood-alcohol limit.

Despite the jump in Swiss traffic-related deaths last year, only Britain, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands have lower road traffic death rates than Switzerland.

In industrialised countries overall, the number of fatal traffic accidents has decreased since 1975 by about two per cent.

Developing countries, by contrast, saw the number of road deaths increase dramatically during the same period. China, for example, has recorded a 243 per cent jump in deaths since the mid-1970s.

Globally, the annual cost of traffic accidents – which seriously injure at least 20 million people each year - amounts to $518 billion (SFr 401 billion).

swissinfo

Key facts

1.2 million people are killed each year in road traffic accidents around the world.
Between 20 and 50 million more people are seriously injured in such incidents.
Globally more than half of all road traffic victims are aged between 15 and 44.
The annual costs of traffic accidents amounts to $518 billion.

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