Every year the lives of almost 1.3 million people are cut short as a result of a road traffic crash. Between 20 to 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury.
Road traffic injuries cause considerable economic losses to victims, their families, and to nations as a whole. These losses arise from the cost of treatment (including rehabilitation and incident investigation) as well as reduced/lost productivity (e.g. in wages) for those killed or disabled by their injuries, and for family members who need to take time off work (or school) to care for the injured.
There are few global estimates of the costs of injury, but an estimate carried out in 2000 suggest that the economic cost of road traffic crashes was approximately US$ 518 billion. National estimates have illustrated that road traffic crashes cost countries between 1–3% of their gross national product, while the financial impact on individual families has been shown to result in increased financial borrowing and debt, and even a decline in food consumption.
Road traffic injuries have been neglected from the global health agenda for many years, despite being predictable and largely preventable. Evidence from many countries shows that dramatic successes in preventing road traffic crashes can be achieved through concerted efforts that involve, but are not limited to, the health sector.
Who is at risk?
More than 90% of deaths that result from road traffic injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries. Road traffic injury death rates are highest in the low- and middle-income countries of the African and Middle Eastern regions. Even within high-income countries, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be involved in a road traffic crashes than their more affluent counterparts.
Children and young people under the age of 25 years account for over 30% of those killed and injured in road traffic crashes. Road traffic fatality rates are higher in younger age groups.
From a young age, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. Among young drivers, young males under the age of 25 years are almost 3 times as likely to be killed in a car crash as young females.
Key risk factors and what can be done to address them
Road traffic injuries can be prevented. Governments need to take action to address road safety in a holistic manner, that requires involvement from multiple sectors (transport, police, health, education) and that addresses the safety of roads, vehicles, and road users themselves. Effective interventions include designing safer infrastructure and incorporating road safety features into land-use and transport planning; improving the safety features of vehicles; and improving post-crash care for victims of road crashes. Interventions that target road user behaviour are equally important, such as setting and enforcing laws relating to key risk factors, and raising public awareness about these. Below are some key risk factors.
An increase in average speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the consequences of the crash. Some other facts are below.
Drinking and driving increases both the risk of a crash and the likelihood that death or serious injury will result.
Seat-belts and child restraints
There are many types of distractions that can lead to impaired driving, but recently there has been a marked increase around the world in the use of mobile phones by drivers that is becoming a growing concern for road safety. The distraction caused by mobile phones can impair driving performance in a number of ways, e.g. longer reaction times (notably braking reaction time, but also reaction to traffic signals), impaired ability to keep in the correct lane, and shorter following distances.
(Source: WHO Fact sheet N°358)