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Press Release


Embargoed until noon
April 1, 2004
Contact: CDC Injury Center Media Relations
Gail Hayes, 770-488-4902
CDC NIOSH Media Relations
Fred Blosser, 202-401-3749

Motor Vehicle Crashes Claim More than a
Million Lives Worldwide

CDC Joins World Health Organization for World Health Day,
April 7th, 2004
"Family Road Safety: Protect the Ones You Love"

Throughout the world, more than a million people die each year because of transportation-related crashes. To highlight this problem that crosses national boundaries and threatens the safety and health of people worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is joining forces with the World Health Organization (WHO), other U.S. federal agencies, and public health and transportation partners for World Health Day 2004 on April 7th.

In the United States, nearly 44,000 people die each year from transportation-related crashes and the price society pays is considerable. For the United States in 2000, motor vehicle-related medical costs exceeded $21 billion, accounting for almost 20 percent of all medical costs attributed to injuries. While there have been great strides to confront the public health problems of road traffic safety and injuries, there needs to be increased awareness that there are ways to prevent these deaths and injuries.

“America is a very mobile society, but we pay a price. Every hour almost five people die in the United States because of vehicle crashes,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “Let us re-energize our efforts on World Health Day and encourage people to choose health and safety – as they drive to school and work, as they run errands or drive on the job, and as they pursue leisure activities – by wearing seat belts, honoring speed limits, and not drinking and driving.”

Each year, the WHO designates a critical public health issue as the focus of World Health Day. This year marks the first time in WHO’s history that world-wide road safety and prevention efforts will be highlighted. The CDC public health theme for this year’s event is “Family Road Safety: Protect the Ones You Love.” Key public health and transportation partners will be among hundreds of organizations working to raise awareness that these types of traffic related injuries and deaths can be prevented.

Here are several public health highlights for “Family Road Safety: Protect the Ones You Love.”

  • WHO rolls out its “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention” on April 7th in Paris. CDC scientists and researchers took part in developing this report.
  • This week’s CDC MMWR features two studies highlighting the critical issue of road traffic safety.
    • The first study examined safety belt use in the United States and found that belt use averaged 85 percent in states with primary enforcement safety belt laws compared with 74 percent in states with secondary laws. Primary laws allow police officers to ticket motorists solely for being unbelted. Secondary laws permit ticketing for failure to use a seat belt only if a motorist is stopped for another traffic violation. Safety belts are the best protection against serious injury or death in a crash. CDC recommends primary enforcement safety belt laws as an effective strategy to increase belt use. Currently, 20 states and Washington, DC have primary laws in place.
    • The second study found that at work, more people die in motor vehicle crashes than from any other cause of injury. CDC recommends that employers establish and enforce workplace driver safety policies as a key step in preventing such fatalities. Occupational safety and health professionals also can help promote awareness of occupational driving issues, and effective strategies for reducing motor-vehicle related crash injuries in the general public can also reduce work-related crash injuries. Between 1992 and 2001, 13,337 people in the civilian work force died from injuries in work-related motor vehicle crashes. The highest number and rate of fatal work-related crashes occurred in the transportation, communications, and public utilities industry (4,358 fatalities, 4.64 deaths per 100,000 employees).
  • CDC injury prevention researchers collaborated with the University of North Carolina in conducting public health grand rounds to reach out to state public health and injury prevention partners on March 26th. Entitled, “On the Road Again: Promoting Safe Travel and the Public’s Health,” the session is now available on the web at:


Editors Note: For more information, please contact:

Ms Sabine van Tuyll
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 3342 Email:

Pan-American World Health Organization (Regional Office for the Americas of the WHO and also the health organization of the Inter-American System):
Mr. Daniel Epstein
Telephone: (202) 974-3459 Email:

Department of Health and Human Services: Media Office: 202-690-6343

CDC Injury Center Media Relations: 770-488-4902

CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Media Relations: 202-401-3749

Department of Transportation Media Relations: 202-366-5571

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Media Relations: (202) 366-9550

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.


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This page last updated April 1, 2004

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