The future of road safety: A worldwide perspective

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Estimates by the World Health Organization suggest that, on a yearly basis, road crashes kill 1.25 million people—nearly 3400 road fatalities per day—and injure up to 50 million. Traffic injuries are not equally spread over the world, however; some countries are hit harder than others, and the chance of being killed in a road crash depends on where one lives. Almost 90% of all traffic casualties occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Globally, the number of fatalities per 100,000 population (mortality rate) ranges from less than 3 to almost 40. The rate is less than 9 in high-income countries (HIC) but averages around 20 in LMIC, with the African region demonstrating the highest rate (26.6). While road safety trends have been positive in HIC over the last few decades, trends in LMIC are not telling a positive story: road fatalities are expected to increase to almost 2 million road fatalities per year by 2020. The United Nations has adopted several resolutions on road safety and proposes actions to tackle the global road safety crisis. Considering the current level of road safety to be unacceptable, the UN has taken several initiatives. One effort, the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, has generated substantial activity around the world over the last couple of years. Furthermore, it is very encouraging that the UN included road safety in the Sustainable Development Goals that it laid out in September 2015. Road safety is part of the public health agenda and the urban development agenda. Measured in “real actions,” however, the responses so far from the overall global community and individual countries do not suggest that we are already on the right track to bringing down the death toll on roads. The future of road safety is uncertain and definitely not the same for all regions of the world. Countries with a mature road safety approach and an ambition to make further progress are expected to move in the direction of a pro-active approach: a Safe System approach. It is reported that many LMIC, meanwhile, are on the brink of designing road safety strategies and implementing action plans. The international community is willing to support LMIC, but LMIC cannot simply copy successful HIC strategies because local circumstances differ. The principles of successful HIC strategies are applicable, but the priorities and action plans should take root in and align with local conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-71
Number of pages6
JournalIATSS Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Developing countries
  • Road safety developments
  • Road safety management
  • Safe System approach
  • Safety data


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