Road Injuries Killed an Estimated 1.4 Million People in 2016

The news of a mass shooting in Toronto’s east-end ‘Greektown’ neighbourhood (on the evening of July 22, 2018) resulted in three deaths and 13 people injured, some seriously, has captured headlines across the country and is a lead on many US media outlets as well.

What can be said? Mass killings are horrific, whatever the weaponry involved and wherever the setting, and the very essence of newsworthiness.  They have also become frighteningly commonplace in major cities around the world, so much so that we tend to inflate the risk, while at the same time being numbed to it.

Inflating this risk often involves re-aligning one of the best-known risks of modern living, and perhaps the risk most discounted and unfelt, namely fatality and injury in road crashes.  But if we do ‘go there’ we see that despite the mostly positive long-term trends, the latest round of statistics confirm the persistence of what should be the most preventable cause of death and injury.

Take, for example, the latest report (24 May 2018) from the World Health Organization on the top 10 causes of death in 2016.  ‘Road injury’ ranks eighth after a list of seven diseases many of which reflect the demographics—the overall aging populations— of the western industrialized world. About road injury the report notes:

“Road injuries killed 1.4 million people in 2016, about three-quarters (74%) of whom were men and boys. …Injuries claimed 4.9 million lives in 2016. More than a quarter (29%) of these deaths were due to road traffic injuries. Low-income countries had the highest mortality rate due to road traffic injuries with 29.4 deaths per 100,000 population – the global rate was 18.8. Road traffic injuries were also among the leading 10 causes of death in low, lower-middle- and upper-middle-income countries.”

In the United States, the November 2017 National Vital Statistics Reports writes as follows: “the 10 leading causes of death accounted for 74.2% of all deaths occurring in the United States.  The rank order of causes in 2015 remained unchanged from 2014… Accidents (unintentional injuries) [which includes road accidents] [is] fourth.” This report is densely packed, and not an ‘easy read’ and if you wish to dig in you can find it online at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr66/nvsr66_05.pdf.

All the reportable motor vehicle collisions in Canada are collected in Transport Canada’s National Collision Database (NCDB) from annual data supplied by the provinces and territories.  The latest set of statistics is for 2016 and saw:

“… a decrease in the number of serious injuries, yet showed a slight increase in fatalities and total injuries.

  • In 2016, the number of motor vehicle fatalities was 1,898; up 2.0% from 2015 (1,860).
  • The downward trend for serious injuries continued, dropping to 10,322 in 2016; down 4.0% from 2015 (10,748).
  • The number of fatalities per 100,000 population was 5.2 in 2016; unchanged from the rate seen the previous two years.
  • The number of fatalities per billion vehicle kilometres travelled was 5.1 in 2016, also unchanged from the previous year.”

If you wish to dig further into this report go to: www.tc.gc.ca/eng/motorvehiclesafety/canadian-motor-vehicle-traffic-collision-statistics-2016.html.