Dangerous Roads
A recent study by the University of Michigan has found that Africa, Latin America and the Middle East host the world’s most dangerous roads, and that traffic accidents in developing nations claim more victims than in wealthier countries.

Similar conclusions have recently been drawn by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) which specifically examined this year’s mortality rates due to traffic accidents in Latin America. The FIA study reports that Brazil has the worst record, at 20 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

FIA regional representative Leandro Perillo of Argentina observes that “the biggest problem we face [in Latin America] is the lack of enforcement of the rules.”

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) sees dangerous roads as a serious development issue in Latin America, reporting that “at 17 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, this region’s roadway fatality rate is nearly double that of higher income countries.”

Leading reasons for this discrepancy besides lax law enforcement include roadways clogged with bicycles, motorcycles and all around bad driving. Anyone who has traveled throughout Latin America understands that traffic lights, lane markers and warning signs are more like suggestions than rules. Poor infrastructure, including the infamous baches (potholes that many times resemble sinkholes) and lomadas (mountainous, unmarked speed bumps,) can also play a part in driving accidents.

Automobile wrecks take more lives in Latin America each day than does HIV/AIDS, and road incidents kill 100,000 people every year in Latin America and the Caribbean. Additionally, car crashes have become the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 29.

Injuries due to poor roads and bad drivers also have a high social and economic cost. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that Latin America loses two percent of its GDP to traffic accidents each year.

Speaking on the importance of road safety in Latin America, IDB Transport Division Chief Nestor Roa states that “when it comes to improving road safety, isolated efforts will only get us so far. Curbing our region’s high traffic death rates requires making this issue a priority for our national development agendas and committing everyone to achieve this goal.”

The IDB is becoming more involved in the region’s transportation situation, performing vehicle evaluations and overseeing the design of better roadways. The institution states that successful confrontation of this issue will require “the coordination and collaboration of virtually all sectors of society, from governments to schools, NGOs, motor vehicle manufacturers, drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Although road safety is not typically seen as a central development concern, addressing this issue will help pave the way to a safer and healthier future for developing nations.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Global Post, University of Michigan, Inter-American Development Bank
Photo: GravityBolivia

10 Facts on Global Road Safety
According to the World Health Organization’s new report titled “Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a Decade of Action”, approximately 1.24 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Another 20 to 50 million sustain nonfatal injuries as a result of road traffic crashes. Road traffic injuries are estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death globally with an impact similar to many communicable diseases. Current trends suggest that by 2030 road traffic accidents will become the fifth leading cause of death unless urgent action is taken. Road traffic injuries are estimated to cost low- and middle-income countries between 1–2 % of their gross national product, estimated at over US$ 100 billion a year. Hence this is a serious problem that gets in the way of poverty eradication.

The following are findings from the report about worldwide road safety:

  1. Of the 1.24 million global road traffic deaths, young adults aged between 15 and 44 years account for 59% of it.
  2. 92% of road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. These countries have only 53% of the world’s registered vehicles.
  3. Vulnerable road users account for half of all road traffic deaths globally. Pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of motorized two-wheelers and their passengers are collectively known as “vulnerable road users.” The proportion of road traffic deaths in vulnerable road users is greater in low-income countries than in high-income countries.
  4. Controlling speed reduces road traffic injuries. Only 59 countries, covering 39% of the world’s population (2.67 billion people), have implemented an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less and allow local authorities to reduce these limits. A 5% cut in average speed can reduce the number of fatal crashes by as much as 30%.
  5. Drinking alcohol and driving increases the risk of a crash. Above a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 g/dl, the risk of road traffic crash increases dramatically. 89 countries, covering 66% of the world’s population (4.55 billion people), have a comprehensive drink-driving law enforcing the WHO-recommended blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.05 g/dl or less.
  6. Wearing a good-quality helmet can reduce the risk of death from a road crash by 40%. Wearing a good-quality helmet can also reduce the risk of severe injury by over 70%. 90 countries, representing 77% of the world’s population, have a comprehensive helmet law covering all riders, all roads and all engine types, and apply a helmet standard.
  7. Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of death among front-seat passengers by 40–65%. Wearing a seat-belt can also reduce deaths among rear-seat car occupants by 25–75%. 111 countries, representing 69% of the world’s population, have comprehensive seat-belt laws covering all occupants in a car.
  8. Infant seats, child seats and booster seats can reduce child deaths by 54–80% in the event of a crash. More than half of all countries have implemented a law on child-restraint use in cars.
  9. Prompt, good-quality pre-hospital care can save the lives of many people injured in road traffic crashes. 111 countries have a universal national access emergency number, but only 59 countries have ambulance services available to transport over 75% of injured patients to hospital.
  10. Since 2007, 88 countries have reduced the number of road traffic deaths. This suggests that progress can be made if there is sufficient political commitment. However, in 87 countries the number of road traffic deaths has increased, while at the global level the number of deaths has remained stable. The pace of legislative change and enforcement need to be hastened and more attention paid to vulnerable road users to reduce the number of road traffic deaths.

– Maria Caluag

Source: WHO
Photo: Facebook