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Remembering those who have lost their lives on roads across the WHO European Region

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In a world focused on COVID-19 and balancing appropriate national responses to a global threat, this Sunday gives pause to an ever-growing group of people. To those families who have lost a loved one or individuals who continue to suffer the life-long consequences of road traffic injuries, the third Sunday of November each year is a sad but important day.

On this day, road safety advocates and those most affected by trauma stop to remember those killed and injured. They stop to remind any and all who will listen about the senselessness behind this preventable cause.

As with each and every year before, many make a promise to themselves that this year will be different – that this year, it won’t happen to any more families.

Tragically, what hasn’t stopped increasing yet is the number of people whose lives are cut short or will never be the same again.

World Day of Remembrance is a day that brings a range of emotions.

There is horror in the realization that, more than 1000 times every day, someone is killed or seriously injured on roads across the WHO European Region.

There is grief at the memory of lost loved ones and despair that this human-made tragedy is consistently labelled an accident, incorrectly implying neither fault nor solution.

There is inspiration with the commitment and leadership of a small, tireless group of road safety champions; but also anger that deaths and injuries are accepted as an inevitable consequence of motorized transport.

There is pride in what has been achieved and the progress made in saving lives and preventing injuries, but also resolve in knowing what more needs to be done and that we have the tools to achieve our vision of a world free of deaths and injuries on our roads. There is also anticipation of the opportunities before us to bring new energy, commitment and resources to the global campaign to prevent road traffic injuries and deaths.

For many, there is a sense of hope that global leaders will take a stand for actions that save lives despite the short-lived unpopularity of some decisions, but this can be tempered by the fear that they won’t or feel they can’t take the necessary action.

Decade of action

This year’s World Day of Remembrance coincides with a new United Nations General Assembly Resolution – Decade of Action, where 193 countries have committed to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads by 50% by 2030. Launched last month, the Global Plan for the Decade of Action 2021–2030 provides tools and blueprints for how such an ambitious objective becomes realistic and achievable. On 30 June 2022, heads of state, governments and ministers will convene in New York to establish a political declaration commensurate with the seriousness of the road safety emergency.

At these proceedings, the voices of survivors and families speaking for those who are now silent are more important than ever. Each day that world leaders go without prioritizing comprehensive, cost-effective and cross-cutting measures to reduce the carnage on our roads is a day when another 3600 lives are lost globally.

World Day of Remembrance is a day we wish we didn’t need to have  – one day each year when we remember the lives of those lost and the ongoing struggles of those injured.

But lest we forget, for their families, every day is one of remembrance.

PHOTO: ©WHO

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