By Bill Holloway
Every year 1.3 million people die on the world’s roads, while another 50 million are injured. Among people 10 to 24 years old worldwide, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death. Among children 5 to 14 years old, road traffic injuries cause more deaths than widespread, potentially fatal diseases like malaria. Traffic fatalities are expected to continue rising in coming years, with 2 million annual fatalities expected by 2020. Over 40 percent of these annual fatalities occur in developing countries, which have only 10 percent of the world’s automobiles. The poorest countries with the fewest cars often have the highest death rates. High income countries typically have about 15 roadway deaths per 100,000 cars while some low-income countries exceed this death rate by more than 100 times.
By 2018, the number of cars worldwide is expected to grow more than 50 percent above 2008 levels with the majority of this growth taking place in developing countries. The rapidly rising populations and auto ownership rates in these places will create increasingly dangerous environments for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle riders, who make up the vast majority of road traffic injuries and fatalities.
Along with the deaths attributable to roadway injuries, another 1.3 million people die each year as a result of outdoor air pollution largely caused by motor vehicles, and cities face increasingly severe economic impacts resulting from traffic congestion.
Safe and Sustainable Roads: An Agenda for Rio + 20, a new publication by the Campaign for Global Road Safety, was released in advance of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will be held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, to draw attention to international road safety and transportation issues facing developing countries. The report surveys the state of road safety worldwide; proposes priorities for international cooperation to reduce road-related injuries and fatalities; and provides recommendations for ways that development banks, which provide loans to support transportation projects in many countries, can do their part to ensure that supported projects do not degrade safety.
Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.