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Getting to zero traffic fatalities: What will it take?

Irene Portabales González's picture
Also available in: Español
Photo: Geraint Rowland
We must stop deaths on the roads. No one would argue with that, of course. But for us who live in Peru and many other developing countries, the importance of making road safety a global development priority really hits home—especially after a string of dramatic crashes that have made headlines across the country.

Last February, a bus fell to the bottom of a 200-metre ravine and left 45 dead in Arequipa, including several children. A month before, the country witnessed its deadliest traffic crash on record when a bus plunged down a cliff in Pasamayo, just north of Lima, killing some 52 people.

According to government data, 89,304 traffic crashes were reported on the Peruvian road network in 2016, with a total of 2,696 fatalities. However, the latter figure only includes deaths occurring within 24 hours of a crash, and does not account for victims who may die from their injuries later on.

The global statistics are equally concerning. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows in its Global status report on road safety 2015 that traffic crashes represent one of the main causes of death globally, and is actually the leading cause for people aged 15 to 29.

Halving road deaths

Pierre Guislain's picture
Road traffic fatalities per 100,000 population
Roads are the dominant means of transportation worldwide. They connect people, communities, and markets together—bringing opportunities to the poor and enabling broad-based economic growth. Yet every year, millions of tragic and preventable deaths and serious injuries result from road safety failings. Although solutions are available and progress has been made, efforts to reduce traffic fatalities remain insufficient, especially in low and middle income countries. Urgent action is needed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development target 3.6 of cutting the number of road fatalities in half.
 
As things stand, every 30 seconds a person is killed in a road crash. To see how many road deaths there are in your country each year, click here. And that’s not all: for every death in a road crash, there are generally at least 20 times as many injuries.
 
In many countries, school children have to gamble their lives to get an education, crossing against speeding traffic to get to school. Approximately 500 children die every day in road crashes, with many of these deaths occurring when children try to cross the road on their way to and from school. Click here to see Luc Besson’s striking 3-minute film on this situation.
 
Over 90% of road fatalities and injuries occur in low and middle income countries. Rapid motorization in developing countries, when it takes place without effective road safety management and infrastructure, contributes to the epidemic of road deaths.