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April 20, 2007

WHO: Traffic deaths a global scourge

DOT Officials, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


The World Health Organization has released a new report on the leading killer of young people, not gun violence, but traffic accidents:

Traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24 around the world -- a huge, overlooked and largely preventable public health problem, the World Health Organization said yesterday.

In a new report, the organization promoted a long list of suggestions to developing countries, where most of the deaths and disabling injuries occur. The improvements include safer roads and vehicles, better urban planning, helmet laws, prosecution of speeders and drunken drivers, better education of the driving and walking public, and simple interventions such as putting reflective tape on backpacks.

In this picture, NYC Department of Transportation official Ryan Russo is trying to explain to why it will take six years to make safety improvements around the  135 most dangerous schools in New York.


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I often bike to work. I blog about how fear of getting hurt keeps people behind the wheel instead of biking when they could...and that alone makes the biking more dangerous. I built up a rugged and garrishly reflective "manhattan commuter bike" for my son the NYU student. Though I wince to see the conditions in which he rides ( poor visibility, speeds inappropriate to the crowded conditions, no bike-specific lanes, perpetual construction obstruction) he says it helps enormously and he gets all over the island with just subway and bike.

The incredibly car-centric infrastructure choices we have supported with our taxes have served us ill, and now the third world learning nothing from our excesses and pathology wants to immitate one of the very worst things about our culture? I have to assume then that the root of the trouble is our own natures, our own lazyness.

While it is appropriate to mourn and question the spectacle of the deaths at VT, we know far more about preventing the vastly more common deaths that occur around us on a daily basis yet seem never to think of stupid is that?

I'd be interested to see how car v. pedestrian & car v. bike accident rates in America compare with those of Europe.

For one thing, from the time I've spent in Europe, most people drive in ways that would make American safety advocates blanch, and the way I've seen your average bike commuter in, say, downtown Lisbon or Rome or Paris ride would make people who say, "We need to have wider bike paths!" flat pass out.

I think American need better driver education, for starters.

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