Data Card

Deaths on the road

Print edition : September 06, 2013
According to the World Health Organisation, 91 per cent of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organisation’s statistics on road accidents present a grim picture. Here are some facts:

  • About 1.24 million people die each year as a result of road accidents.
  • Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged 15–29 years.
  • 91 per cent of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately only half of the world’s vehicles.
  • Half of those dying on the roads are “vulnerable road users”: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Unless acted upon, road accidents are predicted to result in the death of around 1.9 million people annually by 2020.
  • Only 28 countries, representing 416 million people (7 per cent of the world’s population), have adequate laws that address all five risk factors: speed, drunken-driving, non-use of helmets, non-use of seat-belts and absence of child restraints.

Every year the lives of almost 1.24 million people are cut short by road traffic accidents. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability. According to an estimate made in 2000, the economic cost of road accidents was approximately $518 billion. National estimates have illustrated that these accidents cost countries between 1 and 3 per cent of their gross national product, while the financial impact on individual families has been shown to result in increased debt and even a decline in food consumption.

Who is at risk?

Socioeconomic status: Road traffic injury death rates are the highest in African and Eastern Mediterranean countries. Even within high-income countries, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be involved in a road accidents than their more affluent counterparts.

Age: Young adults aged between 15 and 44 years account for 59 per cent of global road traffic deaths.

Sex: From a young age, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. Seventy-seven per cent of all road traffic deaths occur among men. Among young drivers, young males under the age of 25 years are almost three times as likely to be killed in a car crash as young females.

Key risk factors

Speed: An increase in average speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of its consequences. Pedestrians have a greater chance of surviving a car crash at 30 km/h or below.

Drunken-driving: The risk of being involved in a crash increases significantly above a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 grams per deci-litre (g/dl).

Motorcycle helmets: Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40 per cent and the risk of severe injury by over 70 per cent.

Seat-belts and child restraints: Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of fatality among front-seat passengers by 40–50 per cent and of rear-seat passengers by between 25 and 75 per cent.

Distracted driving: Drivers using mobile phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than those not useing a phone. Hands-free phones are not much safer than hand-held phone sets.


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