Road Traffic and Accidents

by Reena Siegel-Richman on February 21, 2014

28_15_8_webRoad Traffic and Accidents by Reena Siegel-Richman

From a quick glance around the room, it is apparent that everyone in this class is either a junior or senior, and therefore everyone is over the age of 18.  Being over 18 increases the chances that everyone in this class at one point in their life has driven a car. Most likely then, everyone has also seen at least one car accident, whether it was small or large; you may have even been in a minor or major crash your self. But, not all car accidents are between two cars; many times they are between a car and a pedestrian.

According to the U.S. Census, there were approximately 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents in 2009, of which 30,800 resulted in a fatality within thirty days.[1] The CDC’s report: Injuries and Violence are Leading Causes of Death notes that motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of death, in 2007, among Americans aged 5 to 34.[2] Since these statistics are only for the United States, one can wonder how many motor vehicle accidents claim the lives of the young around the world?

Road traffic accidents are a global public health problem. Approximately six thousand people in the world die every day from vehicular related injuries, approximately 1.2 million every year, with an additional 20 to 50 million injured per year. These injuries affect everyone, from the young to the old, from the rich to the poor. Yet, the magnitude of the problem varies considerably by age, sex, region and income group.[3] The fatality rates from motor vehicle accidents are decreasing in the United States, but in developing countries, the injuries and fatalities have become increasingly serious.

From a statistical perspective, the people who face the greatest risks come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and the majority are men. Death rates are highest in low to middle-income countries of Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions. Iraq, for example, had the highest mortality rate per 100,00 in 2004.[4] Research has shown that people from a lower economic status are at a higher risk due to their overall risk exposure. Those with no formal education were more likely to walk or use public transportation compared to those with a secondary-educated who mostly use private cars

Where people live, also influences their exposure to road dangers.[5] Generally, people who live in urban areas are at a greater risk of being involved in traffic accidents, than those who live in rural areas. Yet, people in rural areas are more likely to be killed or seriously injured if they are involved in a road accident.  Many people are exposed to new risks when new highways are built throughout their communities, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.

The obvious next question is: what can be done to help prevent road traffic injuries and mortality? Despite all the research and reports that depict the growing problem of road traffic accidents, the problem has received insufficient attention at international and nation levels. The principal reason for this is lack of awareness and detailed information on the extent of the problem, the health, the social and the economic costs, and on the interventions that can prevent or reduce injuries and mortality.

The World Health Organization, in conjunction with the World Bank, released a report entitled “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention” in 2004. This report outlined different ways for countries to address the risk factors involved in motor vehicle accidents, and made recommendations to improve the current situation. This report was the first of its kind, and also addressed the greater issue of how road traffic injuries and mortality presents a huge public health and development issue.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly issued a report titled “Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020),” with the official goal of stabilizing, and then reducing, global traffic fatalities by 2020.  In collaboration with the WHO, the UN regional commissions, guide global efforts by continuing to advocate for road safety at the highest political levels. [6] The WHO provides a wide variety of technical support to countries, from primary prevention work to rehabilitation for those who have been involved in road traffic accidents. A range of preventions and interventions are available to prevent traffic accident injuries and mortality, but there is a wide gap between what is know to be effective and what is actually practiced.  Closing the gap between the two would be a major step forward in reducing the global impact of road accidents.


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