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Road deaths stabilising but road users ‘unequally protected’: WHO

Tuesday 20th October 2015

While the number of road deaths across the Globe is “stabilising”, road users in different parts of the world are unequally protected, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO’s Global status report on road safety 2015* states that 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes, highlighting that the risk of dying in a road traffic crash still “depends, in great part, on where people live and how they move around”.

It argues that a “big gap” still separates high-income countries from low and middle income ones, where 90% of road traffic deaths occur in spite of having just 54% of the world’s vehicles.

It also reveals that Europe, in particular the region’s wealthier countries, has the lowest death rates per capita, while Africa has the highest.

The report says the number of road traffic deaths is “stabilizing” even though the number of motor vehicles worldwide has increased rapidly, as has the global population. It says that in the last three years, 79 countries have seen a decrease in the absolute number of fatalities while 68 countries have seen an increase.

The report argues that 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”.

Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, said: “Road traffic fatalities take an unacceptable toll – particularly on poor people in poor countries.

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

The report also highlights that “more attention” is required to protect vulnerable road users.

It states that motorcyclists are “particularly vulnerable”, making up 23% of all road traffic deaths, while pedestrians and cyclists are also “among the groups with the least protection”, making up 22% and 4% of global deaths respectively.

Dr Etienne Krug, director of WHO’s Department for Management, said: “Decision-makers need to rethink transport policies. Improving public transport as well as making walking and cycling safer requires us to refocus our attention on how vehicles and people share the road.

“The lack of policies aimed at vulnerable road users is killing people and harming our cities. If we make walking and cycling safer there will be fewer deaths, more physical activity, better air quality, and more pleasant cities. ”

The report in numbers:

  • 105 countries have good seat-belt laws that apply to all occupants
  • 47 countries have good speed laws defining a national urban maximum speed limit of 50 km/h and empowering local authorities to further reduce speed limits
  • 34 countries have a good drink–driving law with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of less than or equal to 0.05 g/dl as well as lower limits of less than or equal to 0.02 g/dl for young and novice drivers
  • 44 countries have helmet laws that apply to all drivers, passengers, roads and engine types; require the helmet to be fastened and refer to a particular helmet standard
  • 53 countries have a child restraint law for occupants of vehicles based on age, height or weight, and apply an age or height restriction on children sitting in the front seat

*Global status report on road safety 2015
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. In addition it offers one-page profiles for each participating country and statistical annexes. An interactive online data visualization of the report is also available.

 

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