By David Shepardson
(Reuters) - Texting on mobile devices while driving is a growing "global killer" and not enough attention is being paid to the dangers of distracted drivers, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Friday.
The U.N. General Assembly said on Friday it had asked the secretary general to consider establishing a voluntarily funded Road Safety Trust Fund to support efforts to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents. Road crashes kill more than 1.25 million people and injure as many as 50 million people a year globally, according to the world body.
It has urged countries to do more to establish road safety policies and vehicle safety regulations and set a goal of cutting worldwide traffic deaths in half by 2020.
"Texting while driving is a global killer – one that disproportionately affects our young people," Power said in remarks delivered at the United Nations.
All but four U.S. states ban texting behind the wheel by drivers, while 14 U.S. states ban hand-held cell phone use. Power cited a 2014 study by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 people injured in a crash involving a distracted driver in 2014.
Power called the issue "particularly urgent, because in virtually every one of our countries, there simply is not sufficient recognition of the dangers of driving while texting, calling, or otherwise not paying full attention on the road."
Over a 10-year-period, 13 million people worldwide were killed in road crashes, including nearly 2 million children, and up to 500 million injured, the U.N. said. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death worldwide for people aged 15 to 29, Power said.
Jean Todt, a special U.N. envoy for road safety, said low- and middle-income countries, with 82 percent of the world’s population and 54 percent of all vehicles, accounted for 90 percent of those deaths.
Africa has the highest motor vehicle fatality rate worldwide, while Europe has the lowest. Half of road deaths worldwide involve pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)