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World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

by Michael Evans 18 Nov 2012
World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

Car Accident via Shutterstock

If eight or ten Jumbo Jets were to crash tomorrow, killing everyone on board, this would be very big news. But what if this was to happen every day of the year?

In fact, something very similar really does happen.

According to the latest estimate from the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1,275,000 people die each year on the world's roads. That is equivalent to just under 3,500 per day, every day; enough to fill eight to ten Jumbo Jets. Tens of thousands more are disabled for life.

Put another way, there is a fatal road accident somewhere in the world every 25 seconds.

Generally most of these accidents go unreported; the mere frequency of these "routine" events stops them from being newsworthy.

Yet the devastation that every single incident can wreak on its victims, their families, friends and communities is incalculable. Most of those killed are young and in the prime of their lives and their presence and contributions are greatly needed by their countries as well as their families.

In addition to all the emotional and psychological pain that has to be endured, in a great many cases the loss of a family member can have serious financial implications. In many countries families are frequently driven into poverty by the loss of the chief family breadwinner, the need to pay for the cost of prolonged medical care, or the additional funds needed to care for a disabled family member.

Family suffering is often aggravated by the complete lack of support that they will receive following their loss.

In an attempt to address this, in 1993 RoadPeace, the United Kingdom's charity for road traffic victims, initiated the first Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The European Federation of Road Traffic Victims and nongovernmental organisations in a number of other countries subsequently adopted this. It was seen as a means of giving recognition to victims of road traffic accidents and the plight of their loved ones in having to cope with the emotional and practical consequences of these events.

The United Nations appreciated the value of this and on 26thOctober 2005 a UN resolution 60/5 was adopted that made the third Sunday in November each year the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

This wider brief provides a greater opportunity to draw public attention to road crashes and their consequences and costs, and to remind governments around the world and society in general, of the greater measures that need to be taken to limit what is a major public health problem.

In Britain the second Sunday in November is when the population remember the men and women killed or injured as a result of war and conflict and it was felt to be appropriate that on the third Sunday similar recognition might be given to those who had been killed or injured on the nation's roads. In 1992 a service of remembrance was held in Coventry Cathedral and it was decided to make this an annual event.

By the end of the 1990s similar services of remembrance were being held in many countries throughout the world. This interest ultimately lead to the United Nations becoming involved in 2005, bringing a world day of remembrance.

Some of the services will be for particular faith communities, while many will be multifaith services, or in some cases humanist, but the message will always be the same.

Often remembrance ceremonies and services will be adapted to fit with local traditions, where the lighting of remembrance candles will play an important part. Some services will be very lively, while others will be quiet and contemplative.

Many people favour the creation of memorial gardens and the planting of trees. The gardens can become places of quiet contemplation, while the trees come to symbolise the fact that life still goes on.

Concerts and musical events are often held to mark the day and these may be dedicated to a specific victim or to all road crash victims. In many cases the programme will include a memorial piece specially written for the occasion.

In some places parades, processions and marches are very popular. In Luxembourg the Association Nationale des Victimes de la Route organised a "March in White", where young people dressed in white represented those killed or injured on the national roads. In Rome rhe Associazione Italiana della Vittime della Strada organised a march to a cemetery.

In Buenos Aires, Familiares y Victimas de Accidentes de Transito organised a candle-lit procession and in the Portuguese town of Evora the Associacà £o de Cidadà £os Auto-Mobilzados organised a procession that included the release of pigeons in the town square.

Poster and essay competitions are also popular. Postera can go on public display and winning essays can be read at public events or published in the press. Prizes can also be offered.

The events on this day can be of great help to people who have lost loved ones, simply because by getting together it will bring home to them that theirs is not an isolated case and that hundreds of other families will have had to face a similar experience.

The message of the day is to raise awareness and to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents, not only on the third Sunday of November, but also on every day of the year.

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