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New Seat Belt Manual Launched

17 March 2023

New guidance issued to boost the use of life-saving safety restraints in vehicles.

Nine-in-ten of the 1.3 million yearly road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where the use of vehicle occupant restraints remains low. The World Health Organization [WHO] and partners have launched an updated manual to help decision-makers and practitioners boost the use of these life-saving devices, namely seat-belts and child car seats.

Seat-belts have saved more lives than any other road safety intervention in history, reducing road traffic deaths among vehicle occupants involved in a crash by up to 50%. Child safety restraints have been shown to reduce road traffic deaths by up to 71% among younger infants.

While the use of adult seat-belts is around 83% and the use of child safety restraints is around 77% in the WHO European Region, seat-belt use is below 50% in the WHO African Region and below 40% in the WHO South East Asian Region. A number of South American countries report child restraint use rates of below 10%.

The new manual draws on experience from countries that have succeeded in achieving and sustaining high levels of vehicle occupant restraint use, and builds on new evidence, including from low and middle-income countries, highlighting a series of effective actions. These include setting and enforcing strong laws, working to ensure the correct fitting and use of child safety restraints, and establishing and enforcing vehicle safety standards. Other promising actions cited in the publication include making loans available to bring down the cost of child safety restraints and educating parents and caregivers.

In the 13 years since the first edition of the manual was released, the global landscape has changed significantly. The rapid rate of motorization poses new challenges. With the adoption of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021 – 2030 and of the subsequent Political Declaration by the UN General Assembly in July 2022, countries are embracing the safe systems approach, which recognizes that road transport is a complex system with interconnecting elements that all affect each other.

The publication is part of a series of road safety manuals that are co-produced by WHO, the Global Road Safety Partnership, FIA Foundation and the World Bank Group, with financial support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

OCCUPANT RESTRAINTS A road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners can be downloaded here.

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