Global status report on road safety 2018

The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 recently launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million.

Road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years. The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, in particular those living in developing countries. The report suggests that the price paid for mobility is too high, especially because proven measures exist. These include strategies to address speed and drinking and driving, among other behaviours; safer infrastructure like dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control; and enhanced post-crash care. Drastic action is needed to put these measures in place to meet any future global target that might be set and save lives.


Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 (PDF, 7.8 MB)


The number of road traffic deaths continues to climb, reaching 1.35 million in 2016. However, the rates of death relative to the size of the world’s population has stabilized in recent years. The data presented in this report show that progress has been achieved in important areas such as legislation, vehicle standards and improving access to post-crash care. This progress has not, however, occurred at a pace fast enough to compensate for the rising population and rapid motorization of transport taking place in many parts of the world. At this rate, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target 3.6 to halve road traffic deaths by 2020 will not be met.

Road traffic injury is now the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years, signalling a need for a shift in the current child health agenda, which has largely neglected road safety. It is the eighth leading cause of death for all age groups surpassing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and diarrhoeal diseases. The burden of road traffic injuries and deaths is disproportionately borne by vulnerable road users and those living in low- and middle-income countries, where the growing number of deaths is fuelled by transport that is increasingly motorized. Between 2013 and 2016, no reductions in the number of road traffic deaths were observed in any low-income country, while some reductions were observed in 48 middle- and high-income countries. Overall, the number of deaths increased in 104 countries during this period.

Strengthening legislation to mitigate key risk factors is recognized by the majority of governments as an important strategy to improve road safety, as evidenced by the 149 countries that have designated lead agencies with responsibilities that include enacting and assessing traffic laws. While too many countries still lack legislation that appropriately addresses risks such as speeding, drink-driving, the use of helmets, seat-belts and child restraints, since 2014 progress has been made in a number of these areas. Overall 22 additional countries have amended their laws on one or more risk factors to bring them in line with best practice. This translates to an additional one billion people who are now covered by effective road traffic laws.

Of the 175 countries participating in this report, 123 have road traffic laws that meet best practice for one or more key risk factors. During this review period, ten additional countries (45 in total) have aligned with best practice on drink-driving legislation, five additional countries (49 in total) on motorcycle helmet use, four additional countries (33 in total) have aligned with best practice on the use of child restraint systems, and three additional countries (105 in total) on the use of seat-belts. Less progress has been made on adopting best practice on speed limits, despite the importance of speed as a major cause of death and serious injury.

The enforcement of laws and adoption of safety standards — such as the availability of seat-belts and fitments for car occupants in both front and rear seats, remain challenging in many parts of the world. Despite the benefits of vehicle safety measures, only 40 countries have implemented seven or eight of the priority UN vehicle safety standards. There are, however signs of progress. For example, India, the world's fourth largest car manufacturer, is producing its first four-star (out of a possible five-stars) vehicle and phasing out production of a popular model, which consistently failed safety crash tests.

Some progress is also evident in the planning, design and operation of roads and roadsides, and in the take-up of a range of tools, notably the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), which is a star rating tool for road networks. One hundred and fourteen countries are currently carrying out systematic assessments or star ratings of existing roads. These assessments and the implementation of appropriate road standards are particularly important as the majority of travel by road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, occur on roads that are inherently unsafe for them.

There are also some signs of progress in improving access to post-crash care to reduce the consequences and severity of injury once a crash occurs. One hundred and nine countries now have access to a telephone number to contact emergency care and 97 countries have a formal process to train and certify prehospital care providers. More work is needed, however, to ensure access to quality emergency care. Approximately half of all countries have speciality training pathways in emergency medicine and trauma surgery while 78 reported having national or subnational trauma registries in place.

Although the progress towards reducing the number of road traffic deaths has not met global expectations, there are nonetheless signs of improvement. Accelerating the rate of this progress and bringing to scale the benefits of effective legislation, safer vehicles, safer roads, and increasing access to quality emergency care is the main challenge moving forward. There is an urgent need for governments to scale up their road safety efforts in order to live up to their commitments made in the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. The upcoming Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Sweden in February 2020 will be a key opportunity to take a strategic view and set a road safety agenda for the next decade, including setting a new global target on fatalities.

>> The information presented above is excerpted from the following source.

  • Global status report on road safety 2018. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Licence: CC BYNC- SA 3.0 IGO.

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