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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

WHO warns of rising road deaths after 1.35m killed in 2016

Latest global data show safety efforts bearing fruit in more affluent countries

Traffic moves along a road near the Italian capital, Rome. Europe has the lowest rate of road deaths, according to the latest WHO report. Reuters
Traffic moves along a road near the Italian capital, Rome. Europe has the lowest rate of road deaths, according to the latest WHO report. Reuters

Road accidents killed 1.35 million people in 2016, or one person every 24 seconds, and were the leading cause of death among children and young people between the ages of five and 29, the World Health Organisation said on Friday in its latest report on road safety.

The UN health agency's Global Status Report on Road Safety showed that number of fatalities annually rose by around 100,000 over the three years since its last report, based on data from 2013.

"These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "There is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions."

Despite the increase in the overall number of deaths, the rate of death compared to the growing number of people and cars in the world has stabilised in recent years.

"This suggests that existing road safety efforts in some middle and high-income countries have mitigated the situation," WHO said.

This was largely due to better legislation to address key risks, including speeding, drinking driving, and failure to use a seatbelt, child restraints or helmets, the report found.

Safer infrastructure such as sidewalks and dedicated cycle lanes and better vehicle standards have also paid off.

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But while many countries have stepped up efforts to improve the situation, many poorer nations are lagging way behind.

"Not a single low-income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths", according to the report. The risk of a road traffic death in such countries was three times higher than in high income countries, it said.

The death rate in Africa is particularly high, with 26.6 traffic deaths for every 100,000 citizens, compared with 9.3 in Europe, where the death rate is the lowest.

The report also showed a devastating disregard for the most vulnerable in traffic, with more than half of all those killed in road accidents either walking or on two wheels.

Pedestrians and cyclists account for 26 per cent of all traffic deaths, with the figure as high as 44 per cent in Africa.

Motorcyclists and their passengers accounted for 28 per cent of all road deaths overall, but 43 per cent in South-East Asia, the report said.