Road traffic injury is a major global public health problem. Rapid motorisation in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) along with the poor safety quality of road traffic systems and the lack of institutional capacity to manage outcomes contribute to a growing crisis.
More than 1.24 million people die each year on the world’s roads. Many more suffer permanent disability, and between 20 and 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. These are mainly in LMICs, amongst vulnerable road users and involve the most socio-economically active citizens.
Road traffic injury is a leading cause of death globally for children and was the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29 in 2010. Without urgent action, it is forecast that road traffic injury will be the 7th leading cause of death for all by 2030.
In socio-economic terms, countries around the world are paying a high price for motorised mobility. Country estimates indicate that the value of preventing road death and injury is equivalent to between 1% and 7% of Gross Domestic Product.
Death and serious injury from road crashes is preventable if crash energies are managed so that they do not exceed human tolerances for serious and fatal injury and through effective, results-focused and resourced road safety management.
The Safe System goal and strategy focus on providing a road traffic system free from death and serious injury. It does this by addressing unintentional error and human vulnerabilities.
The Safe System guides the planning, design and management of the operation and use of the road traffic system so as to provide safety in spite of human fallibility. It places a shared accountability across all elements of the system.
Preventing road trauma on public roads and in the course of work is a core responsibility for government, its agencies and employers and requires shared responsibility and leadership.
The scale of the road safety challenge and the diversity of the effects of road traffic injury underline the importance of exploring synergies with other societal goals and priorities.
A UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 has been announced with an ambitious global target and plan to reduce deaths in road traffic crashes.