Shifting out of Neutral: A New Approach to Global Road Safety

By McDonald, Kevin M. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, May 2005 | Go to article overview

Shifting out of Neutral: A New Approach to Global Road Safety


McDonald, Kevin M., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

On April 14, 2004, the United Nations dedicated "World Health Day" to improving global road safety. In explaining the need to focus the world's attention on road safety, Secretary General Kofi Annan declared that "World Health Day is an occasion for us to highlight the [road safety] problem and ... to underscore the fact [that crashes] are avoidable, they are not just accidents, they are human errors which[,] with proper governmental policy[,] can be dealt with." Just what the "proper governmental policy" should be, however, requires an understanding of the factors associated with vehicle crashes. After examining these factors, the Author discusses international responses to date and recommends that, as an initial step, countries seeking to improve road safety create a single governmental agency that would function similarly to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. THE PROBLEM OF ROAD SAFETY
     A. Traffic Crashes Are a Global Epidemic
        1. Deaths and Injuries
        2. Financial Burden
     B. Factors Involved in Traffic Crashes
        1. Speeding
        2. Alcohol
        3. Helmets
        4. Safety Devices
        5. Trauma Care
        6. Road Design and Roadway Environment
        7. Lack of Vehicle Inspection Programs
        8. Summary
     C. Absent Any Action, the Problem of Traffic
        Crashes Will Worsen
III. THE RESPONSE OF THE UNITED NATIONS
     A. Harmonization of Vehicle
        Regulations--WP29
        1. Purpose of Harmonization
        2. Role of the United Nations in
           Harmonization of Safety
           Regulations: WP.29 (1)
        3. 1998 Global Agreement
     B. General Assembly Resolutions
        1. World Health Day 2004
        2. So What? A Word About General
           Assembly Resolutions
 IV. BEYOND JUST WORDS: ADOPTING A "SYSTEMS"
     APPROACH TO SOLVE THE CRISIS--USING NHTSA
     AS A WORLD MODEL
     A. Overview
     B. A Brief Drive Into the U.S. Auto Industry
     C. Enforcement Programs
        1. Set Safety Standards 775
        2. Investigate Safety-Related Defects 778
        3. Oversee Recalls
        4. Summary
  V. CONCLUSION

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion

I. INTRODUCTION

The next time you get into a car, consider this: each year, more than 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes--more than 3,200 each day. (2) By the time you finish reading this Article (assuming it takes you about thirty minutes), more than 270 people will die on roads somewhere throughout the world. (3) That amounts to more than two people every minute. (4) In the United States alone, traffic crashes killed 42,643 people and crippled or injured 2.89 million in 2003. (5) Traffic crashes constitute the leading cause of death for Americans two years of age and those between the ages of four and thirty-three. (6)

In recognition of this global health concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) (7) dedicated World Health Day 2004 to the theme of road safety. (8) On April 7, 2004, hundreds of organizations around the world hosted events to help raise awareness about traffic injuries, their grave consequences, and the enormous costs to society. (9)

Throughout the world, sales of cars and trucks continue to grow. In the thirty member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), (10) the number of vehicles is expected to increase by sixty-two percent between 2003 and 2015, to 705 million. (11) Asian countries are projected to experience the greatest growth in the number of vehicles in the near future. (12)

For example, China's automobile market is the fastest growing in the world. (13) By 2010, China's vehicle market will likely overtake Japan's as the second largest in the world; by 2025, it could well overtake the U. …

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