WHO Report Indicates Global Road Traffic Deaths Keep Rising

A new report by the World Health Organization indicates road traffic deaths continue to increase, now topping 1.35 million fatalities annually. The group’s 2018 road safety report also noted that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 worldwide.

[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons.]

However, the report also noted that – despite the increase in the overall number of deaths – the rates of death due to road traffic incidents relative to the size of the world population stabilized in recent years, suggesting that existing road safety efforts in some middle- and high-income countries are “mitigating” the situation.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

WHO said in the report that “better legislation” around key risks such as speeding, drinking and driving, and failing to use seat-belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints, along with “safer infrastructure” like sidewalks and dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists.

On top of that, improved vehicle standards – such as mandates for electronic stability control and advanced braking systems – plus enhanced post-crash medical care helped reduce road traffic deaths in 48 middle- and high-income countries. However, not a single low-income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths, in large part because these measures are lacking.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed in a statement that “these deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility” and that “there is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions.”

Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the WHO 2018 road safety report found that the risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries.

The rates are highest in Africa (26.6 per 100,000 population) and lowest in Europe (9.3 per 100,000 population). On the other hand, since the previous edition of the report, three regions of the world have reported a decline in road traffic death rates: The Americas, Europe and the Western Pacific.

A highway crash in Australia. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Variations in road traffic deaths are also reflected by type of road user, WHO noted in its report. Globally, pedestrians and cyclists account for 26 percent of all road traffic deaths, with that figure as high as 44 percent in Africa and 36 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean, the group said.

Additionally, motorcycle riders and passengers account for 28 percent of all road traffic deaths, but the proportion is higher in some regions, such as South-East Asia (43 percent) and the Western Pacific region (36 percent).


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