WHO Report Highlights Global Health Risk of Traffic

capt.2680f7db33b94717a19bf178879a0b20.stallworth_pedestrian_killed_football_ny154.jpgPro football player Donte’ Stallworth was sentenced to 30 days in jail yesterday after killing a pedestrian in an alcohol-related crash. Photo: AP

The disparity between the 13 percent of road fatalities suffered by non-drivers and the amount that the federal government spends on their safety — less than one percent — may come as a surprise to some Americans. But the situation is far worse in the developing world, according to a new World Health Organization report.

Surveying
data on crashes and driving from 178 nations, the WHO found that
wealthy nations such as the U.S., U.K. and Germany own more than half
of the world’s registered cars but suffer only 8.5 percent of global
traffic fatalities.

It is low-income nations, from Vietnam
to Ghana to Nepal, that must contend with more than 40 percent of
worldwide traffic deaths despite owning less than 10 percent of all
registered cars.

The WHO also found that non-drivers bear a
significant share of traffic’s health risks. Pedestrians and bike
riders of all types account for nearly one-half of the world’s 1.27
million annual deaths on the road.

Only 15 percent of
nations, according to the report, have laws that fully address the five
risk factors for traffic safety: speed, helmets, child restraints, seat
belts and drunk driving.

As the Washington Post
noted, the report’s authors (who received funding from Mayor Mike
Bloomberg’s philanthropic group) think their conclusions can provide
momentum for something resembling a global "complete streets" movement:

Until the current recession, auto sales in some developing countries
were increasing by more than 10 percent a year. The authors hope the
report will help stimulate governments and engineers to design roads
that can accommodate a huge influx of cars but also out-of-car users.

  • Jen Petersen

    Sadly, while the Post article states that a disproportionate rate of traffic deaths occur among non-motorists in poor countries with far lower rates of car ownership than in the Global North, it doesn’t specify under what conditions these deaths occur. Namely, it doesn’t critically examine the inherently conflictual nature of human/automobile relationships in time and space on streets.

    My guess is, nearly all of these fatalities occur between a motorist and a non-motorist, because of the prioritization of speed and distance passage that supplants human-scaled mobility concerns whenever the automobile (and its rectilinear engineering “requirements”)takes to the street. The absence of this bit of data sends a misleading message that again responsibilizes pedestrians and cyclists for their own risk assumption in streets. I really hope the World Health Organization report is itself wiser on the underlying problem of states actively or passively prioritizing automobile movement on streets, and includes some proposals for public health measures in these places where the car is so clearly the outlier.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETSBLOG USA

America Has a Terrible Traffic Safety Record Because We Drive Too Much

|
Even though the U.S. traffic fatality rate per mile driven has fallen by two-thirds in the last 50 years, America today still has the deadliest road system per capita in the developed world. Much of the improvement from safer driving and better emergency care has been wiped out by increases in total traffic. The American approach to traffic safety has emphasized seatbelt use, vehicle standards, […]
STREETSBLOG USA

The Inequitable Toll of Pedestrian Deaths

|
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control found that while 10.5 percent of all trips in the United States are made on foot, pedestrians made up 13 percent of all traffic fatalities between 2001 and 2010. During those years, a staggering 47,392 pedestrians were killed on American roadways. In 2010, the per capita […]
STREETSBLOG USA

U.S. Traffic Fatalities Rising Fast — Especially Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths

|
Traffic fatalities in America hit a seven-year high in 2015, with pedestrians and cyclists accounting for a disproportionate share of the alarming increase, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year, 35,200 people were killed in traffic — a 7.7 percent increase over 2014 and the worst death toll since 2008. The number of people killed while […]