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Washington, D.C., 26 September 2018 (PAHO/WHO) ‒ Countries in the Region of the Americas have made progress on road safety throughout the past decade, particularly in the development and designation of coordinating bodies to tackle these problems. However, reforms are still needed to improve laws on speed limits and the mandatory use of motorcycle helmets and seat belts.

These are the conclusions of the final report on the Plan of Action on Road Safety (2012-2017), submitted this week by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to its member countries during the 56th Directing Council, which brings together all the Region’s health authorities. The Plan, adopted in 2011 to address the need to improve road safety, established a series of guidelines for health sector actions and initiatives to prevent road traffic injuries.

Every year, road crashes kill approximately 154,000 people in the Region of the Americas, according to the PAHO/WHO report Road Safety in the Americas 2016. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists represent nearly half of all these deaths in the Region.

bikers and pedestrians along the road

Road traffic injuries are a public health problem that place a heavy burden on health systems. Road safety laws change the culture of mobility, improve the behavior of road users, and contribute effectively to reducing accidents, injuries, and deaths.

Among other advances, the report also highlights tighter laws on driving under the influence of alcohol and on the use of child restraint systems. It also identifies positive measures adopted in some countries to improve road infrastructure and implement prehospital care.

However, the report emphasizes that reforms are still needed to legislate urban speed limits of 50 kilometers per hour, and the mandatory use of helmets for motorcyclists and seat belts for all passengers in a vehicle.

The report also emphasizes delays in compliance with or enforcement of laws already passed and urges further advances in national policies to promote walking and cycling.

Further highlights from the PAHO report include:

  • 30 countries—five more than in 2007—have a committee or agency responsible for the multisectoral coordination of road safety measures.
  • 12 countries have programs monitoring compliance with speed limits—eight more than in 2007.
  • 16 countries—six more than in 2007—have set blood alcohol concentration limits of 0.05 g/dl or less for drivers.
  • 16 countries have compulsory helmet laws, four more than in 2007.
  • 23 of 30 countries have laws on the compulsory use of seat belts for all vehicle occupants.
  • 27 countries—six more than in 2007—have adopted laws on the compulsory use of child restraint systems in automobiles.
  • 23 countries—nine more than in 2007—reported policies that support investment in public transportation.
  • 27 countries—five more than in 2007—have advanced towards a prehospital care system that is integrated into the rest of the health system.
  • 14 of 30 countries—four more than in 2007—have improved their mobility policies for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • 12 countries have policies to separate different kinds of road users and protect vulnerable users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

The report recommends that countries strengthen their road safety policies targeting motorcyclists, in light of the increase in injuries and deaths involving these vehicles in the Region, which rose from 15% of total road traffic deaths in 2010 to 20% in 2013. Furthermore, the report advocates taking into account other emerging risk factors, such as distracted driving due to the use of mobile devices and driving under the influence of psychoactive substances.


— Final report on the Plan of Action on Road Safety (2012-2017)
— 56th Directing Council