Traffic accidents now largest killer of children

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Traffic safety

Traffic safety has become a topic of major importance worldwide, according to a new report. Image: mrflip/Flickr/CC BY-SA

According to a report released last week, traffic deaths are now a global epidemic on a level with tuberculosis and malaria. It is now the world’s largest killer of people ages 10 to 24.

Campaign for Global Road Safety

The Safe and Sustainable Roads report, released Wednesday by the Campaign for Global Road Safety, says that 1.3 million people are killed in traffic mishaps every year. That is 3,500 deaths each day. That is one death every six seconds. Another 50 million are injured in traffic accidents annually.

According to Kevin Watkins, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the report:

“The epidemic has reached crisis proportions.”

Children hit the worst

Statistically, children and young people ages 10 to 24 account for the bulk of the fatalities. Traffic accidents are now the world’s largest killer among that age group.

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 260,000 children killed in traffic accidents every year.

Road safety allocations ‘a pittance’

Furthermore, 20 developing nations make up 70 percent of the fatalities. The report implies that nations concerned with developing an infrastructure for motorists are neglecting highway safety:

“Multilateral development banks and bilateral donors have made the upgrading of road infrastructure a key element in their financial portfolios. Yet the combined level of donor aid for road safety is best described as a pittance.”

The report says that, unlike other epidemics, this one can be easily stemmed by instituting and enforcing traffic safety rules, such as separating motorists from cyclists and pedestrians, requiring helmets for motorcycles, seat belt mandates and tough measures for drunk driving.

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Epidemic on the rise

Furthermore, the report says the epidemic is growing, and that the number of yearly fatalities will reach 2 million unless action is taken soon to turn the tide.

Watkins said:

“The epidemic of road traffic injury is a source of poverty, human suffering and economic waste on a global scale. Over the next two decades, the number of vehicles in the world’s poorest countries will increase at an unprecedented rate. Unlike some of the issues that will be discussed at the Rio+20 summit, there are few unknowns in road safety. It’s not rocket science, yet progress has been painfully slow.”

Rio+20 Conference

The report’s release was timed to predate next month’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. Watkins is concerned that traffic safety is not yet on the agenda of that conference. He says the omission, “In a very literal sense, puts millions of lives at risk.”


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