Tue, Jun 16, 2009 - Page 6 News List

WHO report shows traffic is deadliest in poorer countries

AFP , GENEVA

The poor are disproportionately victims of road crashes, with the number of deaths set to nearly double in two decades, according to the first global assessment of road safety, released yesterday.

The WHO study found that almost half of the estimated 1.27 million people who die each year in road accidents are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists, and said not enough was being done to ensure their safety.

“More than 90 percent of the world’s road deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, while these countries only have 48 percent of the world’s vehicles,” said Etienne Krug, director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability.

Persons from poor economic settings are disproportionately affected by the 20 million to 50 million road traffic injuries per year, even in high-income countries, the study found.

Impoverished countries are less likely to require all passengers in a car to use seat belts — 38 percent compared with 57 percent of all countries — the study said.

The Eastern Mediterranean and African regions had the highest death rates, while the lowest rates were among high-income countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain.

Although road traffic death rates have stabilized or declined in many high-income countries in recent decades, the study found in most regions road deaths are increasing.

If present trends continue, road deaths could nearly double to 2.4 million per year by 2030, it estimated.

With road injuries a top-three killer of people aged five to 44 years, costing an estimated US$518 billion in losses annually and knocking up to 3 percent off economic output, the WHO study said all countries needed to redouble their road safety efforts.

“Even the top performers globally are often stagnating and still have considerable room for improvement,” Krug said.

Moreover, the study found many basic safety measures had yet to be widely implemented, including helmet laws.

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