The Road Safety Issue

More than 1 million people around the world are killed every year in road traffic accidents, with an additional 20-50 million injured or permanently disabled. This is equivalent to approximately 3,000 deaths every day.

Although accounting for only 40% of the world’s vehicle fleet, more than 80% of the fatalities, including 96% of all children killed in road traffic accidents, occur in low income countries. The total cost of road crashes and resultant deaths and injuries in developing societies amounts to US$65 billion – more than the annual development assistance that these countries receive.

Africa is the region with the worst death rate, 28 fatalities per 100,000 people. In a continent where 50% of the population is below the age of 16 years, road crashes place a heavy burden on its younger members and breadwinners. This burden tips many households into poverty.

Moreover, projections show that between the years 2000 and 2020, road traffic deaths will decline by about 30% in high income countries, but increase dramatically in low and middle income societies. By 2020, road traffic injuries are expected to be the third leading contributor to the global problem of disease and injury.

Road safety is clearly a development issue. But also a real concern faced by members of the humanitarian community, as the most dangerous activity faced by field workers today is usually travelling in a vehicle.

Although little hard data is currently available, numbers do indicate that vehicle-related accidents contribute substantially to the risks faced by aid workers in the field. Ongoing research on the issue suggests that more than 25% of all deaths suffered by aid workers are a result of accidental causes, of which the vast majority are vehicle-related.

Organisations working on addressing global road safety

  • The Global Road Safety Partnership brings together governments and governmental agencies, the private sector and civil society organisations to address road safety issues in low and middle income countries.
  • The Global Road Safety Forum (GRSF) helps raise awareness and brings people together to address the global road safety crisis in developing and transitioning countries.
  • Make Roads Safe is an international campaign to put global road traffic injuries on the G8 and UN sustainability agendas and aims to raise public and political awareness of a global road traffic injury epidemic.
  • Under the World Health Organisation, the UN Road Safety Collaboration acts as the coordinator on road safety issues across the United Nations system.
  • The World Bank Global Road Safety Facility aims to generate and catalyze increased funding to support initiatives aimed at reducing deaths and injuries in low and middle-income countries.