According to the 2013 World Health Organisation Road Safety Report, Spain has a better record than France, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada and the United States in terms of road accident fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, where it now stands 12th on the global list . It now also forms part of a select group of countries with comprehensive regulations on the five most important risk factors in terms of road accident rates.

Spain is one of the 28 countries with suitable legislation for reducing road accident rates based on the five fundamental risk factors in road accidents: excess speed; driving under the influence of alcohol; not wearing a helmet on motorcycles; seatbelt use; and child safety restraints. These factors have helped lower the number of fatalities and injuries caused by road accidents over the last nine years.

These are just some of the conclusions reflected in the second Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, drafted by the World Health Organisation, presented recently by the Director-General for Public Health, Social Services and Equality, Mercedes Vinuesa and the Director-General for Traffic, María Seguí.

The report, which used data collected from 182 countries in 2010, states that only 1 in every 7 countries – of which Spain is one – have adequate road safety laws.

It adds that governments are adopting successful measures to reduce road accident mortality rates but that they are still insufficient, as shown by the fact that 1.24 million people are killed in road traffic accidents every year around the world. According to the WHO, this figure means that road traffic accidents will become the fifth-largest cause of death in 2030 if no urgent steps are taken.

Spain has improved since the previous report published by the WHO in 2009, which related to data from 2006. Spain is one of 88 countries around the world that has reduced the number of road accident fatalities – from 4,104 in 2006 to 2,478 in 2010. This trend has also been maintained in subsequent years.

The report states that 27% of road accident fatalities involve pedestrians and cyclists. This percentage is not so high in Spain but the report does reflect an increase in the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in relation to the total number of road accident fatalities. Whereas pedestrians accounted for 15% of all road accident fatalities in 2006, this figure had risen to 19% in 2010. The increase is not as high in terms of cyclists: from 2% of all fatalities in 2006 to 3% in 2010.

The WHO reminds governments of the need to enact comprehensive laws on the five accident risk factors in those countries that have yet to do so. Furthermore, it cites a need for political leaders to invest sufficient financial and human resources in law enforcement – an essential aspect in reducing accidents and fatalities – and to undertake communication and awareness campaigns to help the public understand the need to follow the rules.

Spain is one of 35 countries that enacted new road safety laws in the period 2006-2010. Observance and compliance with these laws has improved since the previous report with regard to such issues as the use of helmets and safety belts, the use of which has risen by 1 point and scores Spain an 8 from a maximum of 10. The use of child safety restraints continues to increase (up 2 points). Whereas the use of these devices in Spain scored 6 in the first report, the report presented last week now scores Spain a mark of 8.

On the issue of speed and alcohol, Spain continues to score highly in terms of legislation and compliance with the law. Spain is one of the 59 countries that have reduced speed limits in urban centres to 50 km/h or less. The WHO recognises that reducing the maximum speed limit to 30 km/h in areas of considerable pedestrian and cyclist concentration is an effective way to reduce injury rates among road users.

As regards the use of mobile telephones while driving, Spain has legislation that prohibits using a mobile device in any way while driving, but does not exclude speaking via a "hands-free" device in said legislation.

Finally, the report includes more detailed information on post-accident assistance. The data showing whether or not a formal and publicly available pre-hospital service system or universal access national telephone number exists is now accompanied by indicators on whether countries have a record of those injured or disabled, as opposed to just registering fatalities.

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