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Monday, 20 May 2013

Road Traffic Accidents: a public health issue

Worldwide, road traffic accidents (RTA) are the eighth leading cause of death, and the leading cause of death of youths between 15-29 years. The key risk factors for RTAs are speed, drink-driving, motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraints. However, there is lack of comprehensive legislation and its enforcement in majority of the countries, especially the LMICs.

Given its importance for public health, UN General Assembly in 2010 called for a Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) with an objective of saving 5 million lives over the decade. The five pillars that guide the national road safety activities in the Decade of Action include road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users and post-crash response. The First Global Status Report was published in 2009 and the second one is published in 2013. The recently launched 2013 status report provides interesting data on this modern epidemic.

In all, 195 countries participated in the survey. Around 1.24 million deaths from RTAs occurred annually.RTA was found to be highest in middle income countries (201 deaths per 100 000 population compared to 183 for low income countries and 87 for the high income countries. WHO SEARO region 18.5 RTA deaths per 100 000 population compared to 10.3 in Europe and 24.1 in Africa. Half of all RTA deaths are among the paedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. For every person who dies from RTA crash, 20 are injured.

Data for Bangladesh show that there were 2,958 deaths in 2009, 15% being females. 41% of the deaths were paedestrians. Estimated GDP loss due to RTA was 1.6%. There are quite a number of laws (e.g., national speed limit, national motorcycle helmet law and seat-belt law etc.), but hardly enforced!

Only 28 countries (with 7% of the population) have comprehensive laws addressing the five risk factors. Recommendations to prevent RTA deaths include passing of relevant legislation and its enforcement, building public awareness and responsibility, improving infrastructure with attention to the needs of paedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists., and provision for trauma care.

Source: Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: supporting a decade of action. WHO 2013.

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