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Impacts of road traffic

Emissions from road transportation contribute significantly to the incidence of smog episodes and long-term high average concentrations of harmful compounds such as lead, benzene and PM10 and PM 2.5. Road transportation is also responsible for more than half of NOx emissions and 35 percent of VOCs emissions. Vehicles running on diesel also produce very fine particulate matter (PM), which is extremely harmful to human health.

The use of studded tyres in winter in Scandinavian countries results in significant air pollution problems. The tyres wear down the road surface producing grit, which then becomes suspended in the air.

If there were one car for every two people in the world in 2050 — as there are in the United States today — there would be 5 billion cars on the roads. Bearing in mind the traffic congestion, pollution, fuel use and land requirements associated with the current global fleet of 500 million cars, the impact of a fleet of 5 billion is hard to conceive.

Policy response

At international level, the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) of the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is a policy response to pressing urban problems. The programme reflects the need for urban centres to be car free, to have green spaces and to take measures to protect art and cultural history; promote active and human-powered mobility such as walking and cycling; be accessible to all; and support healthy lifestyles for both physical and psychological well-being and an enhanced sense of community.

Find out more on the search.rec.org website.