Fatalities on the road

Crushed car RTA by Emilian Robert Vicol

Crushed-car by Emilian Robert Vicol, Flickr Creative Commons 

Ever so often, usually when stuck in traffic, I contemplate just how dangerous are roads in the UK compared to other countries. I suppose you do too. Probably at a similar time, whilst at a standstill on a motorway, when the police and ambulances go shrieking past.

In 2013 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published its Global Status Report on Road Safety, which again highlights that road traffic accidents (RTAs) are the leading cause of death for young people (aged 5-29), killing more people than malaria.

RTA chart

Chart showing fatalities from RTAs across different countries adjusted for population

Each year around 1.25m people are killed in traffic accidents globally. WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, has previously said, “Road traffic crashes are a public health and development crisis,” adding,

The vast majority of those affected are young people in developing countries.

We are in the UN decade of Action for Road Safety. There is an ongoing drive (excuse the pun) to reduce deaths on the road by 50% by 2020, with experts estimating that five million lives could be saved. Currently, annual deaths are predicted to rise to 1.9m by the end of the decade.

So where are the world’s most dangerous roads? Using infogr.am to make a tree-map, I’ve highlighted data pertaining to certain key countries at both ends of this fatal scale.

RTA fig

Road fatalities by country – Picture by Namal Perera on infogr.am


Key points from WHO data:-

  • middle-income countries account for around 80% of RTA deaths but are home to only around 50% of the world’s registered vehicles: they therefore have a disproportionately high burden of deaths.
  • Eritrea is estimated to have the highest number of road deaths (48.4 per 100,000 people). This is taken from 2009 data however.
  • The world’s most populous countries, China and India, have the highest absolute number of recorded road deaths (275,983 and 243,475 respectively) but lie mid-table when adjusting for population.
  • In Africa, Nigeria has the largest population and buys the most cars. South Africa has the highest car ownership per capita. Both are in the top 10 (7th and 8th) when it comes to road fatalities (34 and 32 deaths per 100,000 population).
  • San Marino has the best record according to the WHO, with zero fatalities on its roads (2010 data). However, the tragic deaths of Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the 1994 grand prix weekend are more than enough for this tiny enclave to cope with.

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