Despite progress, road traffic crashes still take ‘unacceptable’ annual toll – UN health agency

Managing traffic in central Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo: World Bank/Dave Lawrence

19 October 2015 – Road traffic crashes are a leading cause of death globally and result in some 1.25 million deaths each year, taking an “unacceptable toll – particularly on poor people in poor countries,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report released today.

WHO’s Global status report on road safety 2015 also calls for “urgent action” to achieve the ambitious target in the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020.

The report also noted that “a big gap still separates high-income countries from low- and middle- income ones where 90 per cent of road traffic deaths occur in spite of having just 54 per cent of the world’s vehicles.” Europe has the lowest death rates per capita; Africa the highest.

“Road traffic fatalities take an unacceptable toll – particularly on poor people in poor countries,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.

The report also found that some vehicles sold in 80 per cent of all countries worldwide fail to meet basic safety standards, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where nearly 50 per cent of the 67 million new passenger cars were produced in 2014.

But on a positive note, the report said the number of road traffic deaths is stabilizing even though the number of motor vehicles worldwide has increased rapidly. “In the last three years, 79 countries have seen a decrease in the absolute number of fatalities while 68 countries have seen an increase,” it said.

According to WHO, countries that have had the most success in reducing the number of road traffic deaths have achieved this by improving legislation, enforcement, and making roads and vehicles safer.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Chan. “The report shows that road safety strategies are saving lives. But it also tells us that the pace of change is too slow.”

The Global status report on road safety 2015 comprises a narrative text combining evidence, facts and best practices with conclusions drawn following the analysis of the data collected for 180 countries.

Its publication today precedes the 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety that will be held in Brasilia, Brazil, 18-19 November 2015.


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