Nearly 3,500 people die on the world’s roads every day, which is over 1.2 million people per year, and tens of millions are injured or disabled. Each year, developing countries lose between 1 and 3% of their gross domestic product due to medical costs, productivity losses, and other expenses resulting from deaths and injuries on the road. The economic burden of motor vehicle crashes costs at least $500 billion worldwide, which is more than all the funds that developing countries receive in aid.
Road Traffic Injury (RTI) is the leading cause of death and disability for children over five years of age in Africa, and the continent has the highest rates of RTI in the world. Rapid urbanization and development without a commensurate focus on safe roads creates a deadly environment in which the young and poor are at the greatest risk of RTI.
In Africa, most children walk to school, but all too often roads have no sidewalks, school gates open onto busy roads, drivers have no regard for traffic laws (if such laws exist), and roads and vehicles are poorly maintained. In this chaotic mix, over 4% of children in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods are injured in road traffic every year.
And take motorcycle taxi drivers. Motorcycle taxis are proliferating across Africa as people seek the many important benefits that come from affordable mobility. Unfortunately, a recent study showed that motorcycle taxi drivers in Africa have a greater than 63% chance of being injured during the course of their work in a year. We invite you to consider what would happen in, say, Canada or Singapore if people in a particular line of work had a 63% probability of being injured in a year.
In high income countries, RTI rates have steadily declined from the 1960s onward. But as the developed world gets safer, Africa’s RTI rates keep rising. Right now, for instance, a Tanzanian is over 10 times as likely to be injured in road traffic than a resident of the United Kingdom, and the disparity is only growing as more vehicles hit Africa’s streets every day.
Fortunately, RTI is not like HIV or malaria – we already have the cures. It’s not rocket science. An educated population living in countries with well-built, well-maintained infrastructure and sensible, properly enforced laws is a safer population.
That may sound like a tall order, and it is, but we know what has to be done to get there. Amend along with our partners and colleagues are working every day to put road safety where it belongs: front and center in the international development agenda. We implement programs today to reduce injury rates today among the most vulnerable populations, while advocating for the long-term structural solutions that will create safe transport for generations to come.
For more information about road safety and road traffic injury, we recommend a visit to the website of our friends at the World Health Organization’s Violence and Injury Prevention department.