Road safety issues contribute to car accidents becoming the 8th leading cause of death globally across all age groups and the primary cause of death for individuals aged 5-29 years. Each year, approximately 1.35 million people lose their lives in road accidents, amounting to around 3,700 fatalities per day. These accidents occur in various forms, including car, bus, motorcycle, pedestrian and bike crashes.
Accident Rates in Developing Countries
While global road accident rates are already sky-high, there is a massive discrepancy between high-income and low and middle-income countries. Despite lower-income countries having a lesser concentration of vehicles globally, 93% of road accidents still occur in low and middle-income countries. Accident rates are highest in Africa, with road deaths taking up about 25% of the global total, while vehicles take up only 2% of the total number of vehicles worldwide. In January 2023, two bus crashes in Senegal claimed 62 lives. Deaths per day have risen to more than 40 in Côte d’Ivoire. These events, not the first of their kind, caused a severe public outcry. Conversely, European regions have the lowest rates of traffic injuries and deaths, with total fatalities falling at about ⅓ of those in the Sub-Saharan African region.
Socioeconomic status poses a significant risk for road injuries, even in high-income countries. Unsafe road infrastructure, vehicles, post-crash care and inadequate law enforcement contribute to and exacerbate this problem, perpetuating poverty. Beyond the loss of countless lives each year, traffic accidents also have substantial economic impacts. These incidents cost countries up to 3% of their GDP annually, impeding the growth and development of lower-income nations in particular. Addressing road safety incidents would tackle these issues and more. Improving infrastructure, for instance, would encourage eco-friendly transportation like walking and cycling, addressing inequalities in access to health care and work.
Solutions to Road Safety Mortality
Fortunately, the global community recognizes the gravity of the issue. Countries are presently operating under the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, initiated in 2020. This comprehensive plan focuses on four key areas, with special attention to low and middle-income countries. The areas of emphasis include safer road infrastructure, vehicles, overall road use—particularly through law enforcement—and improved post-crash care. The plan provides concrete action steps and outlines the roles of government, civil society, the private sector, the U.N., funders and other relevant actors to effectively address the problem.
In June of 2023, leaders from 100 countries convened in Stockholm, Sweden, for a historic road safety summit—the first in-person meeting for this new leadership team. This gathering offered the Heads of Road Safety Agencies from each nation a unique opportunity to collaborate, sharing knowledge and experiences that have contributed to the reduction of traffic accidents. They discussed upcoming plans, responsibilities and progress related to the U.N. Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Events like the recent WHO summit play a crucial role in reminding global leaders of the importance of road safety. These meetings mobilize governments to continue their efforts in making improvements and serve as a powerful symbol of unity and solidarity within the global community.
– Jianna Choi