About 1.35 million people died in traffic accidents in 2016 around the globe.
 - Graphic courtesy of WHO.

About 1.35 million people died in traffic accidents in 2016 around the globe.

Graphic courtesy of WHO.

Road traffic deaths continue to rise globally climbing to 1.35 million in 2016 and are now the eighth leading cause of death for people of all ages and the leading cause among children and young people ages 5-29, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WGO).

On the upside, the report notes that legislative measures around issues like drinking and driving, speeding, and seat belt use have contributed to reductions in roadway fatalities in some 48 middle- and high-income countries.

However, not a single low-income country has experienced a reduction in lost lives—largely due to a lack of legislative safety measures.

The risk of road traffic fatalities changes depending on geographic location. For example, people in low-income countries face a three-time higher risk than those in high-income countries.

While the global rate of road traffic death is 18.2 per 100,000 population, there is significant variation across the world's regions. Africa has the highest fatality rate with 26.6 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Southeast Asia with 20.7 lost lives.

Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions have rates comparable to the global rate, with 18 and 16.9 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively. The lowest fatality rates are in the Americas (15.6) and Europe (9.3).

The report emphasizes that in three of six regions — Americas, Europe and Western Pacific — fatality rates have steadily decreased since 2013.

According to the report, 54% of all road traffic fatalities are among vulnerable road users, that is, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

Globally, pedestrians and cyclists comprise 26% of all deaths, and another 28% are those using motorized two- and three-wheelers.

Car occupants make up the largest single group of deaths (29%) and the remaining 17% of fatalities are unidentified road users.

The report also evaluates which countries have implemented legislation to meet best practices on five key risk factors. The findings include:

  • 46 countries representing 3 billion people have laws setting speed limits that align with best practice;
  • 45 countries presently have drink-driving laws that support best practice; 
  • 49 countries currently have laws on motorcycle helmet use that align with best practice;
  • 105 countries representing 5.3 billion people currently have laws on seat-belt use that align with best practice; 
  • 33 countries currently have laws on the use of child restraint systems that support best practice.
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