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Preventing the leading cause of death in young people in Europe
  1. Dinesh Sethi1,
  2. Francesca Racioppi2,
  3. Roberto Bertollini3
  1. 1
    WHO European Centre for Environment and Heath, WHO Regional Office for Europe
  2. 2
    WHO European Centre for Environment and Heath, WHO Regional Office for Europe
  3. 3
    WHO Regional Office for Europe
  1. Dr Dinesh Sethi, WHO European Centre for Environment and Heath, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Via Francesco Crispi 10, Rome 00187, Italy; din{at}

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Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 1.2 million deaths annually. In 2002, road traffic accidents were responsible for 127 000 deaths in the WHO European Region.1 Recently, there have been calls for global action to reduce this public health threat, and the First United Nations Global Road Safety Week was held on 23–29 April 2007.2 Activities during the week focused specifically on preventing road traffic injuries in young people under the age of 25 years. The WHO European Region faces substantial challenges in this respect, as each year 32 000 young people aged under 25 are killed in road traffic accidents in Europe.3

Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in the 5–24 years age group.3 However, deaths are only the tip of the iceberg, and it is estimated that, for every death, 20 people are hospitalised and another 70 require outpatient medical treatment.4 5 Although data on non-fatal outcomes and costs are incomplete, the available evidence suggests that the health care and societal costs are enormous, with the latter estimated at 2% of gross domestic product for most countries in the region.1 6

The nature of the risk and exposure changes with age: among European children under 15 years, pedestrians account for the majority of fatalities, whereas in the 15–24 years age group most road death victims are car occupants (59%) or motorcyclists (19%).3 Programmes aimed at reducing road traffic deaths should take into consideration the different needs of groups at different stages of development from infancy to …

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