Traffic Fatalities Take Biggest Toll in Developing World

By Stephen Markley  on June 18, 2009 Traffic accidents ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the world in 2004, but they’re on track to become the fifth-leading cause by 2030, with most of the increase coming in the developing world, according to a report by the World Health Organization.

The numbers speak for themselves: Of the 1.2 million people killed in traffic accidents around the world each year, most are not in cars, but on motorcycles, bicycles or walking along the roadside. These occur on the crowded roads and urban grids of developing countries.

High-income countries like the U.S. and Western Europe have 52% of the registered vehicles worldwide but make up only 8.5% of traffic deaths. Developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have only 9% of the vehicles but 42% of the deaths.

In other words, the countries with the fewest cars still have the most traffic deaths.

The report points to the five greatest risk factors: speed, drunken driving, helmets, seat belts and child restraints. The countries that have adopted laws enforcing standards in these areas tend to fare best, but only 15% have laws that address each area sufficiently, according to the report.

Fewer Cars, More Traffic Fatalities (The Washington Post)