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In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 goals relating to people and the environment. These were termed the sustainable development goals. Goal 3 is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”. This goal has 13 targets concerning to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health; infectious and non-communicable diseases; mental health; environmental risks; and health systems and funding. Target 3.6 is to halve global road deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020. This is one decade earlier than deadlines specified for other targets.

Since 1998 there has been a downward trend in road traffic casualties of all types in Great Britain. There was a reduction in fatalities between 2006 and 2010, however the number of fatalities has remained stable since 2010. Car occupants account for the greatest number of both casualties and fatalities. However, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists have significantly higher casualty rates per mile travelled than those travelling in cars or buses. Within Europe, Great Britain had the third lowest number of road deaths per million inhabitants in 2018, behind Norway and Switzerland.

In July 2019, the Government published a policy paper setting out the actions it intends to take between 2019 and 2021 to improve road safety. This document highlighted that “there has been little change in the number of reported fatalities on British roads since 2010”. It argued that new initiatives were needed to reduce the number of deaths on the roads.

Globally, road traffic crashes are the eighth leading cause of death for people of all ages. It is the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of road traffic deaths globally increased, reaching 1.35 million in 2016. Participants at the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in February 2020 called for a new target to replace SDG target 3.6: to reduce road traffic deaths by at least 50 percent from 2020 to 2030.

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