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The Worldwide Road Safety Crisis

Road Rules readers will recall our references to Tom Vanderbilt’s bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in Canada.  Recently, we looked at the book’s companion blog.  It contains a menu of some 74 links to “Fellow Travelers” —other blogs about road safety.  These links show “Fellow Traveler” broadly defined to include both individuals and organizations.  One of the organizations that caught our eye was the Global Road Safety Partnership or GRSP.

Creating Connections

GRSP describes itself as a “hosted programme of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies” based in Geneva. Its purpose is to bring together “governments and governmental agencies, the private sector and civil society organizations to address road safety issues in low and middle-income countries.”  The rationale for the involvement of these particular hosts in what has traditionally been regarded as a “problem for the transport sector” is that “the direct costs of the growing number of crashes falls mostly on the health sector, businesses and families.”  Noting that “Many sectors have a role to play in [preventing] crashes, deaths, and injuries,” GRSP’s objective is to connect “these sectors,” provide “advice on good practice,” and “deliver feasible and effective road safety projects.”

Road Safety

The GRSP site goes on to detail the “facts and figures” of the “problem of road safety”—calling it a “global crisis”—(paraphrased) as follows:
  • Every 30 seconds a person dies in a road crash—more than 3000 per day.
  • Almost 1.2 million people die in road crashes worldwide every year. As many as the number of injured – 50 million every year.
  • Police records seriously under-report crash and casualty numbers. In some countries, less than half of the deaths that happen as a result of a road crash are reported to the police.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that by 2020 road crashes will be the third most common cause of premature death in the world and unless action is taken, the annual number of deaths will rise to 2.4 million, with the increase occurring in developing and transitional countries.
  • Vulnerable road users, especially children, are, particularly at risk. 500 children die every day in road crashes.
  • According to the WHO, in 1998, more children died in Africa from road crashes than from the HIV/AIDS virus. Road crashes were the second biggest killer of young men after HIV/AIDS.
  • In many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries between 40 and 50% of people died in crashes are pedestrians.
More than 85% of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low and middle-income countries. Considering the fact that they own only 40% of the world’s motor vehicles.  A graph accompanying these statistics showing the percentage change in road fatalities by region from 1980 to 1995 shows Asia with the steepest uptick followed by Latin American, Africa, and the Middle East.
Interestingly, the “highly motorized countries” trend line is in the opposite direction.  This, at least, is good news.
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