On May 11, the World Health Organization launched its global Decade of Action for Road Safety awareness campaign to build on the momentum of governments, industries, nongovernmental organizations and research institutions in preventing injuries from road traffic crashes. The Decade of Action aims to save 5 million lives from road traffic injuries over the next ten years.

Road traffic injuries are a global epidemic that reaches far and wide – from the busy streets of Baltimore to dimly lit alleys of Mumbai. More than two people die every minute on the world’s roads, which amounts to 1.3 million people every year. Although road traffic injuries have received little attention as a global public health problem, WHO predicts that road traffic injuries will become the world’s fifth leading cause of death by the year 2030.

Although the majority of these tragedies occur in low- and middle-income countries, the problem itself has no borders. According to the U.S. State Department, road traffic injuries are the top killer of healthy Americans traveling abroad. Here in the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 5 to 34.

For years, research has focused on the benefits of road safety solutions and interventions around helmet wearing, speeding, drunk driving and seat belts. The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, whose faculty have been leaders in exploring the burden of road traffic injuries and potential interventions in developing countries, has made significant strides in these areas, most recently having joined the global community of World Health Organization Collaborating Centers. The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit is also part of a the Road Safety in 10 Countries project, a five-year, $125 million initiative supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies that aims to improve road safety in 10 low- and middle-income countries.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy has a 25 year history of addressing road traffic injuries as a public health problem in the United States. Because of the Center’s emphasis on translation, the consequences of this research on practice and policy are considerable. For example, Center research demonstrated the significant reduction in crash risks as a result of stringent Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs, information that has been used by state policymakers across the country to inform their novice driver policies. Center faculty were also among the first to demonstrate the safety impact of bicycle helmet laws and related education programs, and have developed programs designed to help senior drivers better self-regulate their driving, keeping them safer on the roads. Center programs also provide low-cost car safety seats to families in need.

For more information about the Bloomberg School’s continuing work in road safety, please contact the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy.

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