Last year's National Year of Road Safety, as declared by the Canadian Global Road Safety Committee, was also the launching point to the United Nation's Decade of Action for Road Safety. Announced last May and running until 2020, the UN has set goals for its member nations to improve road safety with the aim to reduce road deaths and injuries across the world.

According to the UN, nearly 1.3 million people die as a result of road traffic collisions worldwide annually. In addition, 20 to 50 million more sustain serious injuries from auto accidents, sometimes resulting in permanent disability.

While traffic safety initiatives are constantly being implemented by governmental bodies and officials, the UN decided to put a time frame on the campaign to give needed action some immediacy.

"A decade would provide a time frame for action to encourage political and resource commitments both globally and nationally," the report stated. "Donors could use the decade as a stimulus to integrating road safety into their assistance programmes."

While the ultimate goal of the campaign is to reduce traffic accident fatalities and increase road safety among all of the UN's member nations, the international body outlined five pillars that local governments are encouraged to implement: road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users and more comprehensive post-crash responses. These include the development of a strong hospital trauma care system that can effectively evaluate the quality of care, more proactive rehabilitation care and improved auto insurance plans that pay for crash victims' treatments.

With these recommendations in mind, Transport Canada spent much of 2011 trying to raise awareness for traffic safety. This involved encouraging territorial governments and provincial authorities to increase their commitment to road safety.

Perhaps inspired by these calls for action, the National Youth Leadership Council recently awarded 25 high schools throughout the United States and Canada with $2,000 to go toward teen driver safety programs in 2012. This is part of a safety initiative called Project Ignition. The grants are designed to support student-organized campaigns that promote safe driving within their local communities.

"Young people have unique capacity to influence their peers' behaviours," said Lelita Svoboda Bak, CEO of NYLC. "Especially when supported by adult allies, students can save lives by changing practices such as seat-belt use or the decision to not drive under the influence. We are honoured to provide students and teachers the support they need to transform their ideas into realities and make a measurable difference in teen driver safety."

The 10 schools deemed to have the most effective campaigns will receive an additional $7,500 so that longer-term driver safety campaigns can be installed.

According to the U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automotive crashes are a leading cause of death for teens in North America.

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