ROAD traffic accidents are the eighth leading cause of deaths worldwide, killing 1.35 million people a year, according to a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The road death toll is higher than that from malaria, HIV or tuberculosis and is increasing. Road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years.
According to the report, global road traffic deaths stood at 1.15 million in 2000. Most at risk are children and young adults, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
WHO works with partners - governmental and non-governmental - worldwide to raise the profile of the preventability of road traffic injuries and promote good practice related to addressing key behaviour risk factors - speed, drink-driving, distracted driving, the use of motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraints.
“Road safety is an issue that does not receive anywhere near the attention it deserves,” Michael Bloomberg, chief executive of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the WHO’s global ambassador for non-communicable diseases and injuries, says in the foreword.
“We know which interventions work. Strong policies and enforcement, smart road design, and powerful public awareness campaigns can save millions of lives over the coming decades.”
About 40% of vehicles are in high-income countries, where just 7% of all traffic deaths take place.
By comparison, 13% of deaths occur in low-income countries, where only 1% of the world’s motor vehicles are found.
Africa had the highest death rate at 26.6 people per 100000 population, followed by South East Asia at 20.7.
The lowest death rate was in Europe at 9.3, with Britain among the lowest worldwide.
The report gives the estimated traffic fatalities for South Africa at 25.9 per 100000 population.
While South Africa has good laws in place, enforcement falls short. The report rates enforcement of drink driving and seat belt and child restraint laws at just 5/10 and the speed limit at 6/10.
The report highlights better legislation as key to tackling road traffic deaths and highlights five key risk areas - speeding, drink-driving, use of motorcycle helmets, use of seat belts and use of child restraints.
Zoleka Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter and global ambassador of the Child Health Initiative, lost her 13-year-old daughter in a road traffic accident in Joburg in 2010.
“Sometimes we get blinded by statistics and we forget the terrible impact upon people’s lives,” she said.
“My daughter Zenani was a victim of this terrible man-made epidemic we owe it to the next generation to take action now and save lives.”
The years 2011 to 2020 were declared the WHO’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, with the goal to save millions of lives by building road safety management capacity; improving the safety of road infrastructure; further developing the safety of vehicles; enhancing the behaviour of road users; and im- proving post-crash response. Staff Reporter