San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Road Safety Forum Brings Latin American Leaders

Leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean came to San José this week to gather support to reduce the number of roadway deaths in a region that has the highest number of these types of deaths per capita in the world, according to a recent World Health Organization report.

Administrators, civil organization leaders and functionaries from 21 Latin American and Caribbean countries and seven other nations – a list which included the likes of British Prince Michael of Kent –met at the San José Hotel Palacio in Sabana Wednesday to sign a declaration that would bring attention and financial support to confront the problem.

“We’re looking for solutions,” Costa Rican Minister of Public Works and Transport Karla González told The Tico Times. “One of the most difficult things to do is to get the governments to listen.” González said the Arias administration is listening. This month, the administration will send its Roadway Security Plan to the Legislative Assembly. The plan will refurbish the nation’s infrastructure, increase fines for traffic law violations and improve enforcement (TT, Aug. 25).

The declaration of San José hopes to pressure development banks to require that at least 10% of their investments for infrastructure development be applied to road safety programs, according to the declaration.

It also pushes industrialized nations to commit resources to the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility so the facility can reach a total investment of $300 million by 2015. The facility can make funds available to the countries in Latin American and Caribbean region to develop road-safety programs and the management capacity needed to make them work, according to a statement from the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, which helped organize the event.

“(The forum) helps us plan long-term policies,” said Edwin Lagos, director of El Salvador’s Automobile Club, a civil organization.

In Costa Rica, where about 600 people die in traffic accidents each year, traffic accidents are the leading cause of violent deaths, according to statistics from the National Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI).

More than 122,000 lives are lost each year in Latin America because of traffic accidents, and for every death, 20 to 50 more are seriously injured, according to statistics from the Task Force. The region has the highest road fatality rates of any in the world, a burden of death and disability comparable to that caused by malaria or tuberculosis.


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