The World Health Organisation (WHO) 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety has revealed that more than a million people die each year on the world’s roads, and the cost of dealing with the consequences of these road traffic crashes runs into billions of dollars.
Even more frightening is the revelation that more than three-quarters of all road traffic deaths are among young males.
According to the report, road traffic injuries are currently the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 29.
The report published by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) warns the current trends suggested that by 2030, road traffic deaths would become the fifth leading cause of death unless urgent action is taken.
There are some positives however, for instance 88 countries – in which almost 1.6 billion people lived – reduced the number of deaths on their roads between 2007 and 2010, showing that improvements were possible, and that many more lives would be saved if countries take further action.
Yet it noted that 87 countries saw increases in the number of road traffic deaths over the same period. The highest road traffic fatality rates were in middle-income countries, particularly the African Region.
However, there has been no increase in the number of countries with adequate legislation on all five key risk factors – the 28 countries (representing 7% of the world’s population) with comprehensive laws remain unchanged from the last evaluation in 2009.
The report also highlights that enforcement of these laws, which is critical to their success, is inadequate.
The report serves as a strong warning to governments to address the needs of non-motorised road users. Twenty-seven per cent of all road traffic deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists.
In low and middle-income countries, this figure is closer to a third of all road deaths, but in some countries is more than 75%.
However, only 68 countries have national or sub-national policies to promote walking and cycling, and just 79 countries have policies that protect pedestrians and cyclists by separating them from motorised and high-speed traffic.
As the world continues to motorise, walking and cycling need to be made safe and promoted as healthy and less expensive mobility options.