WHO to Promote Road Safety

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated “Road Safety” as the theme of next year’s World Health Day (WHD), to be observed April 7, 2004.

The resolution, adopted by the General Assembly can be read at: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/en/813.pdf.

The “I Promise Program”—teen safe driving initiative salutes the WHO for their decision and recognition of car crashes as the leading cause of permanent injury and death in almost every industrialized nation and a significantly rising cause of injury and death in developing nations.

“We see this as a boost to the automobile insurance industry as they are the major underwriters of teen driver carnage,” said Gary Direnfeld, executive director of the I Promise Program. “We are chatting with these insurers to adopt our program in their promotion of the WHO World Health Day initiative.”

The “I Promise Program” is a private initiative and recognizes that the subset of the population at greatest risk with respect to car crashes are novice young drivers. To that end, the I Promise Program advises parents and guardians of young drivers, that first and foremost, they must present themselves as role models for responsible road use. Youth learn to drive long before they touch the wheel of the car by first observing their parents.

Next, the I Promise Program provides parents with the necessary tools to discuss and “contract” rules for the safe and proper use of the family car. Finally, parents and youth affix a rear-window decal that displays a toll-free number and asks the question, “Am I Driving Safely?” This decal facilitates community reports on driver behavior and so acts as a mechanism of accountability to the “Parent-Youth Mutual Safe Driving Contract.”

Developed over the course of two years with input of stakeholders in traffic safety worldwide and then focus group research carried out under a grant from the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, the program has been operational in North America for 18 months.

Data obtained from the South Carolina State Police has reportedly demonstrated a 29 percent reduction in young driver car crashes in Lancaster County where the program is actively promoted, as compared to an increase crashes in Greenwood County where the program is not promoted. With approximately 175 youths on the program, only one call has been received by the call center and that was to make a report of “perfect driving.”

The distribution plan for the program is by developing partnerships with automobile insurance companies as they are the economical beneficiary of a reduction of car crashes. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the cost of young driver car crashes in year 2000 at U.S. $32.8 Billion. To date, the Dominion Of Canada General Insurance Company is the first to offer a rebate for those youths participating. Discussion is underway with several regional U.S. insurers and other Canadian insurers to follow suit.