Ten Countries Halve Road Traffic Deaths – But Global Progress is Slow
Rush hour traffic in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Ten countries have slashed their road traffic deaths in half between 2010 and 2021, while  35 others have reduced deaths by between 30% and 50%, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023 released this week.

The big achievers are Belarus, Brunei, Denmark, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, there was an overall global reduction in deaths of 5% over the period, with 1.19 million people dying per year.

“Yet with more than two deaths occurring per minute and over 3,200 per day, road traffic crashes remain the leading killer of children and youth aged 5–29 years,” according to the WHO.

“The tragic tally of road crash deaths is heading in the right direction, downwards, but nowhere near fast enough,” says WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The carnage on our roads is preventable. We call on all countries to put people rather than cars at the centre of their transport systems, ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”

The majority of road traffic deaths occurred in the WHO’s South-East Asia Region (28%), followed by the Western Pacific (25%), African Region (19%), the Americas (12%), and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (11%). The least occurred in the European Region (5%).

Some 90% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and the risk of death is three times higher in low-income than high-income countries despite low-income countries only having 1% of the world’s motor vehicles.

More than half of fatalities occur among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, in particular those living in LMICs. Pedestrian deaths rose 3% to 274,000 over the decade, accounting for 23% of global fatalities. Deaths among cyclists rose by nearly 20% to 71,000, accounting for 6% of global deaths. 

“Research indicates that 80% of the world’s roads fail to meet pedestrian safety standards and just 0.2% have cycle lanes, leaving these road users dangerously exposed. And while nine in 10 people surveyed identify as pedestrians, just a quarter of countries have policies to promote walking, cycling and public transport,” according to WHO.

The report also reveals an alarming lack of progress in advancing laws and safety standards. Only six countries have laws that meet WHO best practice for all risk factors, namely speeding, drunk driving, compulsory motorcycle helmets, seatbelts and child restraints.

The global motor vehicle fleet is set to double by 2030, but only 35 countries – less than a fifth of UN Member States – legislate on all key vehicle safety features, while only a quarter require vehicle safety inspections that cover all road users.

“Our mission at Bloomberg Philanthropies is to save and improve as many lives as possible, and one of the best ways to do that is to make more of the world’s roads safe for all,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of  Bloomberg Philanthropies, which supports a substantial global road safety programme.

“For more than a decade now, we’ve made encouraging progress together with the WHO and our partners. Still, as this new report makes clear, road safety demands stronger commitments from governments worldwide – and we’ll continue to urge more leaders to take lifesaving action,” added Bloomberg, who is the WHO’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.

Image Credits: tph567/Flickr, Flickr/ M M.

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