By Angie Schmitt, April 1, 2014
In 2010, more people were killed by motor vehicles than by AIDS, or
malaria, or tuberculosis. That year, 1.3 million lives were cut short by
vehicle collisions, and 185,000 more people died as a result of health
problems caused by vehicle exhaust. Combined, those vehicle-related
factors accounted for 2.9 percent of all deaths globally, according to a
report released yesterday by the World Health Organization.
The WHO said global development lenders are growing concerned about
the rising road death toll. In the past two decades, road deaths grew 46
percent worldwide, the organization reported. Pedestrians accounted for
35 percent of the victims. In some parts of Africa, as many as 50
percent of fatal crash victims were killed while walking.
International development agencies have long recommended
road-building as an economic growth strategy, but the high toll of
traffic deaths in many developing nations is also a drag on economic
performance. Road deaths have been rising in poorer countries while
declining, for the most part, in affluent nations, the WHO reported.
Between 1990 and 2010, the WHO reports that the “road injury disease
burden” — a metric that encompasses both health and economic factors —
declined 16 percent in the United States, compared to Japan’s 40 percent
and Sweden’s 30 percent.
Meanwhile, from 1980 to 2010, road deaths increased 77 percent in China and 66 percent in India.
“Road crashes cost an estimated 1 percent to 5 percent of GDP in
developing countries, undermining efforts to reduce poverty and boost
shared prosperity,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group
in the report.
The WHO recommends that countries do a better job reporting traffic
fatalities. Some counties in Africa, the agency found, are
under-reporting traffic fatalities by a factor of five. The WHO also
recommends better coordination between public health professionals and
agencies responsible for transportation development, and it urges
counties to encourage active commuting to improve health outcomes.