Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies

Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies - Cover
Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies - Back Cover
Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies - Cover
Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies - Back Cover

Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies


The Lost History of Success in the Rich World Now Urgently Needed in Developing Nations

Provides recommendations of what to do now in low- and middle-income countries. With a set of proven, realistic and relevant priorities, and with the right global leadership, road traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented as soon as action is taken.

Book synopsis below...

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“No more empty commitments. No more delay. We are approaching five years into the Decade of Action for Road Safety. Road deaths are actually rising in nearly 70 countries. Where is the action? Where is the urgency?”

–Zoleka Mandela, FIA Foundation ambassador and road safety advocate. Opening speech at the 2nd Global High Level Conference on Road Safety in Brasilia on 18 November 2015

“No progress has been made in road safety in the past 5 years.”

–Dr. Eva Molnar, Director, Division of Transport, United Nations Economic Commission Europe. Meeting of the Friends of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 – 2020, 3 June 2013, Stockholm, Sweden

“Road safety is a significant worldwide health issue.”

–George W. Bush, President, United States, Message to World Health Day 2004

“Road traffic deaths will become increasingly common in the years ahead, unless we take decisive action now to prevent them.”

–Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City, Press release 12 February 2015

“If African countries must develop, road safety is not an option — it is a necessity.”

–Ebrahim Malick Samba, then the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, 7 April 2004


Road traffic crashes are killing and maiming more people today than ever before. By 2013, annual global road traffic fatalities were estimated to have reached 1.25 million. Of these, 90%, 1.125 million, occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Even though high-income nations had 46% of registered vehicles globally, they only had about 125,000 fatalities, or 10%, of the total. In the 40 years after 1972, road traffic fatalities in 23 high-income OECD countries decreased by 63% with effective crash and death reduction efforts. At the same time, economic growth in low- and middle-income countries saw more households achieve mobility with cars, motorcycles or mopeds, leading to increasing road tragedy.

This book proposes what can be done now in low- and middle-income countries with proven, realistic, relevant and prioritized actions implementable under existing conditions to reduce the road traffic tragedies occurring there. This means starting road safety engineering, most importantly by installing and maintaining reflectorized center lines and edge lines, signs and signals.

Road safety engineering with reflectorized road markings is the most effective, and likely the most affordable, crash countermeasure on two-lane roads. The authors of the comprehensive COST 331 study completed in 1999 by the European Commission found that road marking is “one of the most effective (i.e. with one of the highest cost-benefit ratios) low cost engineering measures available for improving road safety.” Similarly, summarizing a meta-analysis study by the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo, Norway shows that when the combination of center lines and edge lines are added to roads, total crashes are reduced by 24%, a significant drop.

The goal of road safety engineering is to prevent road traffic crashes. This is essential. If a crash does not happen, then no one has to survive it. This concept focuses first on optimizing the safety of existing roads. Rather than focusing on trying to make drivers obey traffic rules and not mix drinking with driving, it proved more effective to improve the roads first to keep as many driver mistakes as possible from becoming crashes. The decision makers at the United Nations and the World Health Organization appear not to have understood this concept or that these actions produced the desired results in the rich world. Road safety engineering is not a panacea for road traffic safety, but is part of a critical and necessary early step.

The current road traffic tragedy is occurring on current road infrastructure, with a current vehicle mix, and in nations with a current level of healthcare access. Within these current parameters, countermeasures to reduce road traffic crashes and deaths must provide the largest and most immediate results at a cost these nations can at least contemplate affording. What the UN/WHO prescribes though are overly complex and long-term options focused on behavior modification countermeasures and without recommending any priorities of action.

Making a measurable change in driver behavior takes years. Making a measurable change with improved vehicle safety standards and crashworthiness also takes years. Building new roads and bridges likewise takes years. Road safety engineering, however, is effective immediately and records results in weeks. Based on the success of road safety engineering efforts in high-income nations, it is reasonable to conclude that road traffic deaths and injuries in low- and middle-income nations can also be cut substantially. To make this happen, a new entity responsible for global road safety, and with fully accountable leadership and competent staff that can solicit foreign aid funding from donor nations, is proposed.

Roads are a central and critical part of the road traffic safety equation. Crashes happen on roads. The crashes involve humans and vehicles. To prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities, it is necessary to include countermeasures addressing all these three aspects, but with science-based priorities of action. However, is seems as though most road traffic safety discussion heretofore largely ignores the safety condition of existing roads and the need for priorities of action. Not only does road safety engineering produce short-term, but lasting, results, it also provides that much needed hope for the public that the tragedy now playing out on the roads can indeed be reversed. For the developing world, any results, but especially short-term results, are long overdue.