President Dilma Rousseff on Friday, moving to raise awareness of Brazil's unacceptably high traffic deaths, launched a campaign to halve the number of road accidents by 2020.
A day after official statistics showed that 53 percent of the country's 194-million-strong population was now middle class, she said reducing traffic deaths was essential to ensure that Brazil becomes "not just a great middle class country, but also a great civilized country".
Nearly 43,000 people died in traffic accidents last year in this huge South American country where speed limits and rules at traffic lights and zebra crossings are frequently ignored.
Brazil ranks fifth among countries with the highest number of traffic accidents, behind India, China, Russia and the United States, according to the U.N.'s World Health Organization.
Speaking at a ceremony to launch an awareness campaign on the occasion of "Traffic Week," Rousseff said an emerging power like Brazil must value "the most precious asset of all, which is life."
She vowed to toughen legislation to punish those found guilty of unsafe behavior on the country's streets and roads.
The goal is to halve the number of deaths by 2020 in line with a WHO resolution signed by Brazil.
"We cannot continue wasting our future. We cannot above all waste so many lives," said Aguinaldo Ribeiro, the minister for cities.
"We need to make a pact for life. Brazil cannot have more than 40,000 traffic deaths annually," said actress Cissa Guimaraes, whose teenage son died two years ago after being run over by a car while skating in a closed Rio tunnel.
|Copyright © 2012 Naharnet.com. All Rights Reserved.||http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/54445|