Road Traffic Crashes Remain the Top Cause of Death of those Aged 15-29 Years
Road traffic crashes remain the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years. They are estimated to cost countries from 3-5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.
Approximately 1.25 million people die on the world’s roads every year. Typically, 40-50% of the drivers go over posted speed limits, and if those on the driving seat are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes.
These facts have be revealed in a new report, Managing speed, by the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggests that excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to one in every three road traffic fatalities worldwide. Measures to address speed prevent road traffic deaths and injuries, and make populations healthier and cities more sustainable.
Yet, only 47 countries of the world follow good practice on one of the main speed management measures, namely implementing an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less and allowing local authorities to reduce these limits further on roads around schools, residences, and businesses.
The situation in India is no different, According to police data from 2015, 43.7 % of the total road crashed were due to over-speeding which caused 60,969 deaths and 2,12,815 persons injured. “The UN Road Safety Week theme this year is speed and the numbers above tell us exactly why the focus needs to be #slowdown. Between 50 km/hr to 80 km/hr, the chances of death in the case of a crash are increased from 20 to 60%. Doing the maths over 40 000 lives could have been saved in India in 2015 by just slowing down,” says Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor, Head of the Injury Division at the George Institute India. According to her, “There are 4E’s to road safety – education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services. So the approaches to managing speed include modifying roads that calm traffic such as round-about, speed bumps; establishing and enforcing speed limits, raising awareness about the dangers of speeding and assisting with in-vehicle technology to manage speed.” The George Institute for Global Health India conducted a study of 2200 people in three hospitals in North India with one of its collaborators Dr. Shankar Prinja, from PGI, Chandigarh highlighting the health, social and economic burden of road injuries. It was revealed that 10% of people die post- discharge and that more than a third of the family’s experienced financial distress due to injuries. It is the young economically productive age group that is highest at risk, 15-29-year-olds 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. Speed management measures include building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic such as roundabouts, speed bumps, establishing speed limits appropriate to the function of each road and enforcing speed limits through the use of manual and automated controls.
Installing in-vehicle technologies in new cars, such as intelligent speed assistance and autonomous emergency braking in addition to raising awareness about the dangers of speed are some other measures to prevent road accidents, the report says.
Road traffic fatality rates are nearly three times lower in Europe compared to Africa. Countries that have had the most success in drastically reducing rates of road traffic death and injury in recent decades – Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom among them – are those that have addressed the issue holistically. They have prioritized safe speed as one of four components of the safe system approach, along with safe roads and roadsides, safe vehicles, and safe road users. Within countries, municipal leaders have greatly contributed to a growing movement – often instigated at local level – to transform cities into more livable places for all. By reducing speed and improving safety, their populations benefit from the added advantages of increases in walking and cycling and reductions in air and noise pollution. Such actions, in turn, have positive health benefits on rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, the report suggests.