The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been joined by a fifth, but he’s driving a car. If current trends continue, more people will be killed in traffic accidents in the 21st century than were killed by wars in the 20th. That projection is probably a bit pessimistic regarding traffic and a bit optimistic regarding wars, but the figures are still shocking.
The WHO says that without action, road traffic crashes will kill around 1.9 million people a year by 2020 and injure 20-50 million more. They’re already the leading cause of death for people aged 15-29.
Yet figures from the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (a working group of the Joint Transport Research Centre of the OECD and the International Transport Forum) paint a different picture. According to IRTAD’s latest data, the average annual reduction in the number of deaths in IRTAD member countries in 2000-2009 was higher than in the three preceding decades.
The reason for the difference between WHO and IRTAD is that over 90% of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low-income and middle-income countries, although these countries have only 48% of the world’s registered vehicles.
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up nearly half the victims, and even in IRTAD, the number of motorcyclists killed increased in 13 out of 29 countries in the 2000-09.
Apart from the human cost, there’s an economic cost to road accidents too. The WHO estimates that economic losses to victims, their families, and nations as a whole total 1% to 3% of GNP in most countries.
Yet, as IRTAD point out in regard to the reductions in the number of deaths, “We have strong evidence that effective road safety policies contributed to this favourable development.”
However, according to the WHO, only 15% of countries have comprehensive laws relating to five key risks: speeding, drinking and driving, and the non-use of helmets, seat-belts and child restraints.
Today, May 11th, the UN is launching a Decade of Action for Road Safety with the aim of stabilising and then reducing global road deaths by 2020.
Apart from their regular work on road safety, two International Transport Forum/IRTAD initiatives will provide useful additional input to the UN and other efforts.
The first is a study on linking police and hospital data to better estimate the real number of traffic casualties, with a final report later this year.
The second project, on “distracted driving”, looks at the influence of the growing number of entertainment and communications devices already installed onboard or brought in by the driver – phoning, fiddling with the satnav, etc.
OMG!!! Truck!!! Must swerve!!!!
International Transport Forum Annual Summit: Transport for Society Leipzig, Germany, 25-27 May