The World Health Organisation has published the latest Global Status Report on Road Safety and it has found that a huge 1.25 million people die each year around the world, as a result of road traffic collisions. There have been measurable improvements in road safety but they simply haven’t been enough.
In the lesser developed countries the figures are highest but it isn’t plain sailing for the developed world either. As a rule the number of road traffic fatalities can be seen to be stabilising despite the increase in the number of vehicles worldwide, alongside the population. In the past three years there have been 79 countries who have seen a decrease in the number of fatalities whilst 68 have seen an increase. Those countries with the best records have made considerable changes to legislation, enforcement and work to make both roads and vehicles safer for use.
The risk of dying in a road traffic accident depends significantly on where in the world you live and your mode of transport. 90% of road traffic deaths occur in low and middle-income countries even though they have only 54% of vehicles. Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, particularly highlighted the huge gap between Europe and Africa in this respect.
More Action on Road Safety Needed
More countries have shown greater awareness and understanding for the need to tackle road safety as 17 countries have made changes to their laws with positive changes for seat belts, motorcycle helmets, child seats, speeding and drink driving notable in the last three years. The survey found that globally 105 countries have good laws on seat belts, applying to all occupants in the car, 47 have good speed laws with defined maximum speed limits and 34 countries have good laws for drink driving. They also found that 44 countries currently have helmet laws that apply to all drivers and passengers on motorcycles and 53 countries maintain child restraint laws in keeping with standards based on age, weight or height and they also have age or height restrictions for children seated in the front of the vehicle.
Vulnerable Road Users Highlighted
It comes as no surprise that the WHO report finds motorcyclists to be particularly vulnerable, making up 23% of all road deaths around the world and pedestrians and cyclists too are recognised as vulnerable making up a further 22% and 4% of global deaths. Governments and policy makers need to look closely at what they’re doing to support the most vulnerable users as well as improving infrastructure and legislation generally, for a safer future.
The WHO designated the period between 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety and this is third report which has come from this initiative, giving governments the direction they need to make changes for more positive results when the next report is collated.