Road traffic injuries kill approximately 3,16,000 people each year in the South East Asian Region and are the highest cause of death only after AIDS and TB. Despite comprising only 11 countries, this is 25% of the global total of road traffic deaths.
If the situation doesn’t improve and necessary interventions and actions are not taken, the road injury deaths are predicted to rise from ninth biggest killers in 2015 to seventh biggest in 2030. The South East Asian region has a road traffic death rate of 17.0 per 100 000, compared to the global rate of 17.4. However, within the region there is considerable variation, ranging from 3.5 to 36.2.
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up 50% of road traffic deaths in the region: in some of the regions countries this figure rises to over 80%. The safety needs of these groups must be addressed in order for a decline in the regional deaths to be achieved.
The situation in India is no different. According to the year 2015 police data, 43.7 per cent of the total road crashes were due to over- speeding which caused 60,969 deaths and left 2,12,815 persons injured. As many as 16.6 per 100,000 population die in road accidents.
Earlier this year, the George Institute for Global Health, India conducted a study of 2,200 road accident victims in three hospitals in North India with one of its collaborators Dr Shankar prinja from PGI Chandigarh highlighting the health, social and economci burden of road injuries. The study revealed that 10% of people die post discharge and that more than a third of the families experienced financial distress due to injuries.
It is the young economically productive age group at the highest risk and it is estimated that the total cost of road injuries is 3% of India’s GDP which is more than our entire health budget.
According to Dr Patanjali Dev Nayar, Regional Advisor— Disability, Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation, WHO-SEARO, none of the countries in the region have national policies to separate vulnerable road users from high-speed traffic.
“Legislation is a key strategy to improving road user behaviour but most countries in the region could do much more to bring their laws on key risk factors – speed, drink-driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints – into line with best practice. Also, enforcement of laws relating to the key behavioural risk factors is weak: strengthening enforcement is critical to realising the potential gains associated with passing strong laws,’’ said Dr Dev Nayar.
Vehicle standards are a critical part of road safety but only 2 countries in the region currently applies any of the 7 priority international vehicle safety standards, while no country applies all 7. Improving infrastructure is an effective mechanism for reducing road traffic injuries. Six countries require road safety audits for new roads, while 4 assess the safety of existing roads, Dr Dev Nayar said adding improving post-crash care can help to reduce road traffic deaths and the severity of injuries.
The South-east Asia Region comprises a large proportion of global road deaths. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on road safety – halving the total number of road traffic deaths by 2020 means that the pace of implementation needs to be rapidly accelerated within this region.
Pointing out that humans make mistakes that lead to road crashes, Dr Dev Nayar said people involved in designing, building, managing and using the road traffic system have a shared responsibility to ensure that road crashes are prevented as much as possible or, when they occur, do not lead to fatal or serious injuries. All parts of the system need to be integrated and strengthened so that the safety effects are multiplied and if one part fails other parts will still protect all the people involved.