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Poor road safety causes too many deaths

First publishedin World Highways
2016 October
WH Contraflow Mike Woof
Road safety is an issue that rarely grabs headlines, although it is something that affects people around the globe. Road deaths account for a shockingly high percentage of deaths worldwide, with the risks being particularly high in developing countries. This poses such a threat to public health that the United Nations has been taking steps to address the issue, commencing with its Decade of Action on Road Safety in 2010. The focus has been on developing countries, due to the rapid increase in road deaths in many countries. A combination of minimal driver training, poor road maintenance, insufficient enforcement and weak laws has resulted in carnage on the roads of many countries. With vehicle numbers growing fast in developing nations, the problem is getting worse and with young males are particularly at risk. The impact on the struggling economies of developing countries is massive while the
human cost goes without saying.

India is one of the countries seeing the problem becoming worse. According to official data from the Indian Government, 146,133 people died in 501,423 reported crashes during 2015. Of more concern too is that this figure is 4.6% higher than for 2014, when 139,671 died in 489,400 crashes.

With over half of the people who died in crashes aged from 15-34, it is apparent that the young are at particular risk on India’s roads. Meanwhile 500,279 people were reported as being injured in road crashes in India during 2015, an increase over the 493,474 injured in 2014. But it is worth noting that these figures relate to reported crashes and that many incident in India still go unreported, so the actual toll of deaths and injuries could be significantly higher.

Bad driving, poor vehicle condition and inadequate road repairs and maintenance are major causes of crashes in India. Bad driving was recorded as the cause of 80% of crashes, with speeding reported as being a contributory factor in 62% of collisions. Some areas of India pose a higher risk than others, with the 13 states featuring worst records for road safety including Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. In all these 13 worst states account for more than 80% of India’s totals both for road crashes and fatalities.

This high road crash rate has a negative effect on India’s economy that the country can ill afford, lowering GDP by an estimated 3%/year, according to India’s Ministry of Transport. And with the country’s road network growing fast and its total length of highways expected to increase from 96,000km to 200,000km, the problem looks likely to worsen still unless effective action on safety is taken. Nor is the problem limited to Asia, with many African countries also seeing worsening safety records.

Data from South Africa shows that 12,944 people were killed in 10,673 road crashes in the country during 2015. As the country's registered vehicle population rose 3% to 11,710,756, and the number of drivers growing 4.56% to 11,656,425, the problem will worsen. Meanwhile in Nigeria data from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) shows that the country had 12,077 recorded road crashes and 5,400 reported road deaths during 2015.
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