• Planning for road safety: awareness, behavior and infrastructure

    • Traffic crashes have become a global epidemic1. Fortunately, government authorities and NGOs around the world are working hard with a combination of awareness, behavior and infrastructure strategies to reverse this deadly trend through traffic safety initiatives.

      If you live in a low-income country, traffic crashes are one of the top ten causes of death. If you live in Costa Rica, considered an upper middle-income country by the World Bank2, you’re more likely to die in a traffic accident than from liver or stomach cancer3. Even if you live in the U.S., auto accidents kill more people than pancreatic cancer, liver or heart disease, violence, suicide or any other injury4.

      Motor vehicle accident statistics are staggering. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

      • Every year, more than 1.2 million people die each year, and up to 50 million are injured due to road traffic crashes (page ix, x)
      • Approximately 90 percent of traffic-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (page 4)
      • Road traffic crashes are the number one cause of death for people between the age of 15 and 29 (page x)
      • Almost half of all deaths on the world’s roads are motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians (page 8)

    What are the root causes of traffic accidents?

    • Shanghai street corner markings

      In 2015, WHO performed the first broad assessment of road safety in 178 countries using data from surveys conducted in 2008. In its Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists were identified as those most vulnerable to road accidents, comprising almost half of all deaths on the world’s roads. Only 75 countries (page 30) had national road safety strategies with specific targets, including identifying dangerous roads and the engineering countermeasures needed to make them safer. Just 29 percent of participating countries had urban speed limits aligned with best practices (page 22, 47 countries of 180 participating countries) and only 34 countries had drunk-driving laws using the alcohol limit recommended by WHO (a BAC limit of less than or equal to 0.05 g/dl) (page 30). The report also noted that:

      • Just 40 percent of nations require bicycle and motorcycle helmets to be correctly worn (page 25)
      • 165 countries have seatbelt laws, with 105 of those countries meeting best practices of requiring passengers in the back seat to wear seat belts (page 35)
      • 96 countries have a child restraint law, but only 85 countries base this law on age, weight or height (page 36)
      • 139 countries report have an emergency specialty for doctors, with 116 countries having a single universal access number for emergency services (page 13)

    Traffic infrastructure changes

    • Reflective tape on traffic control vehicle

      Any effort to reduce road injury rates relies on the ability to gauge and mitigate situations that contribute to traffic accidents. According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, a successful transportation plan should include the 4 Es of safety:

      • Education. Inform drivers about the rules of the road and the importance of good choices: wearing seatbelts, not texting while driving and avoiding alcohol or medications that affect awareness.
      • Enforcement. Enforce traffic laws and provide a visible police presence to deter unsafe driving behavior.
      • Engineering. Make roadway improvements to prevent crashes or reduce their severity.
      • Emergency medical and trauma service. Respond rapidly to collisions to stabilize victims and transport them to medical facilities.