“This is the first gathering of many of the most influential players in the road safety field, from victim associations, foundations, the automobile industry, and ministries of transport and health,” said Dr. Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. “Combining such diverse expertise in road safety and taking action will help to reverse the unnecessary death toll on the world’s roads.” More than 1.2 million people are killed each year on the road, while millions more are injured or disabled. In some low- and middle-income countries, road crash victims occupy up to 10 per cent of hospital beds. Deaths from all types of injuries are projected to rise from 5.1 million in 1990 to 8.4 million in 2020 – with road traffic injuries as a major cause for this increase. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted in a recent report that “improving road safety requires strong political will on the part of Governments,” adding that countries should also “aim to ensure that sufficient resources are available, commensurate with the size of the road safety problem in their country.” Globally, estimates suggest that the economic costs of road traffic injuries amount to $518 billion per year, WHO said. In developing countries, the costs are estimated to be $100 billion, twice the annual amount of development assistance to developing countries. To mitigate this global public health and development crisis, Mr Annan recommended that countries develop and implement national strategies on road traffic injury prevention and appropriate action plans. Today’s initiative will seek to advocate policies and programmes that address speed reduction and alcohol consumption, re-enforce the use of seat belts, helmets and child restraints, improve emergency response systems, promote safe vehicle design and introduce the implementation of road safety standards.