The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) is commemorated internationally on the third Sunday of November each year to remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are also affected. This year the day is being recalled on 20th November.

Road deaths and injuries are sudden, violent, traumatic events, the impact of which is long-lasting, often permanent. The burden of grief and distress experienced by this huge number of people is all the greater because many of the victims are young, many of the crashes could and should have been prevented and because the response to road death and injury and to victims and families is often inadequate, unsympathetic, and inappropriate to the loss of life or quality of life.

This special Remembrance Day is intended to respond to the great need of road crash victims for public recognition of their loss and suffering. It is important because it represents an initiative and a call for implementation of national programs, it connects and unites victims of road traffic accidents around the world, it communicates to society that the consequences of accidents are unacceptable. The lack of information about road traffic victims creates indifference among people. Remembrance and public discussion about road traffic victims creates a common prevention in this field and because silence is a collective denial of the truth.

According to World Health Organization 1.24 million people are killed on the world’s roads annually. This means at least 3,390 deaths daily. About 50 million people are injured in road crashes and 5 million of them become permanently disabled. Only 28 countries, covering 7% of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) have set a global goal of reducing the number of deaths and injuries in road traffic by signing the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 - 2020” Declaration, endorsed by Governments, UN agencies, multilateral institutions and NGOs. The latter brings a commitment of personal responsibility to all who can in any way contribute to road safety.

Road traffic injuries remain a global public health problem. The death toll is highest in developing countries despite low motorization where more than 90% of fatalities occur. Globally, it is the leading cause of death for people aged 15–29 years. Motorisation levels in a particular area determines the risk of road traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities. All factors held constant, the higher the level of motorization, the higher the road crashes, fatalities and injuries Comparison of crashes, injuries and fatalities to the level of motorization in a particular area is an accepted international road safety outcome rate as a performance measurement of road safety.

The pillars for the road accidents as erected by the World Health Organization (WHO) include road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, and safer users. The safer roads and mobility harmonize global standards, implement new car assessment programs, equip all new cars with minimum safety features, and promote use of crash avoidance technologies. Moreover, they encourage managers of fleets to purchase, operate and maintain safe vehicles

Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death among front-seat passengers by 40 to 65 per cent and among rear-seat occupants by 25 to 75 per cent. Wearing a good quality motorcycle helmet can reduce the risk of death by 40 per cent and severe head injury by over 70 per cent.

Infant seats, child seats and booster seats can reduce deaths of infants by 70 per cent and deaths of small children by between 54 to 80 per cent in the event of a crash. Urban speed limits should not exceed 50 km/h and local authorities should be able to reduce speeds, where necessary.

Seat-belt use varies greatly among different countries, depending upon the existence of laws mandating their fitting and use and the degree to which those laws are enforced. In low-income and middle-income countries, usage rates are generally much lower. Seat-belt usage is substantially lower in fatal crashes than in normal traffic. Young male drivers use their seat-belts less often than other groups and are also more likely to be involved in crashes. The effectiveness of seat-belts depends upon the type and severity of the crash and the seating position of the passenger. Seat-belts are most effective in roll-over crashes and frontal collisions, and in lower speed crashes. Correctly used seat-belts reduce the risk of death in a crash by approximately 60 per cent.

Child restraints work in the same way as adult seat-belts. Unfortunately its use is mainly confined to high-income countries. However, the use of appropriate restraint depends on the age and weight of the child: rear-facing seats are particularly effective for young infants, forward-facing restraints are appropriate for younger children, and booster seats used with seat-belts are effective for older children.

Seat-belt usage is substantially lower in fatal crashes than in normal traffic. Young male drivers use their seat-belts less often than other groups and are also more likely to be involved in crashes. Seat-belts are most effective in roll-over crashes and frontal collisions, and in lower speed crashes.

The  higher the speed of a vehicle, the shorter the time a driver has to stop and avoid a crash. A car travelling at 50 km/h will typically require 13 meters in which to stop, while a car travelling at 40 km/h will stop in less than 8.5 meters. An average increase in speed of 1 km/h is associated with a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving an injury. In severe crashes, the increased risk is even greater. In such cases, an average increase in the speed of 1 km/h leads to a 5 per cent higher risk of serious or fatal injury. Travelling at 5 km/h above a road speed limit of 65 km/h results in an increase in the relative risk of being involved in a casualty crash that is comparable with having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 g/dl. For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80 km/h, the likelihood of death is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30 km/h. Pedestrians have a 90 per cent chance of surviving car crashes at 30 km/h or below, but less than 50 per cent chance of surviving impacts at 45 km/h or above. The probability of a pedestrian being killed rises by a factor of 8 as the impact speed of the car increases from 30 km/h to 50 km/h.

Non-helmeted users of motorised two-wheelers are three times more likely to sustain head injuries in a crash compared to those wearing helmets. Helmet-wearing rates vary from slightly over zero in some low-income countries to almost 100 per cent in places where laws on helmet use are effectively enforced. Although helmets have generally been widely worn in most high-income countries, there is evidence of a decline in usage in some countries more than half of adult riders of motorized two-wheelers in some low-income countries do not wear their helmets properly secured. Child passengers rarely wear helmets, or wear adult helmets that do not adequately protect them. Helmet use does not have adverse effects on neck injuries, visibility or the ability to drive safely in traffic.

A lack of information about this catastrophe provokes social indifference, because road victims, like other victims, need to feel that they are not alone and that their suffering is considered by the community. People are thus reminded to honour the dead by promising to behave correctly on the road to prevent future tragedies.