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FEATURE STORY

Latin America: Time to Put a Stop to Road Deaths

May 10, 2013

Zenani Mandela, South African Ambassador to Argentina, and daugther of former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Governments from Latin America and multilateral agencies reinforce regional and national road safety plans
  • A lack of road safety in the region results in nearly 130,000 deaths, some six million injuries and some form of disability for hundreds of thousands of people
  • Approximately 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and between 20 and 50 million are injured.

In terms of road safety, Latin America ranks number one in the tragic global ranking of regions with the highest number of deaths from road traffic accidents.

Each year it is estimated that a lack of road safety in the region results in nearly 130,000 deaths, some six million injuries and some form of disability for hundreds of thousands of people. For people aged 15 to 44, the figures are even more distressing: for this age group, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death.

Key factors driving up the number of fatalities include the poor condition of part of the region’s road network, drink-driving and not using seat belts or helmets.

Zenani Mandela, the daughter of former South African President Nelson Mandela and current South African Ambassador to Argentina, has joined the campaign to reduce traffic deaths.

During the third road safety meeting, held in Buenos Aires last week, Zenani Mandela said “We cannot wait any longer to act when we know that there are children who will die on the roads.” As she spoke these words she was visibly upset by the memory of the death of her granddaughter, who was hit by a car in 2010.

 “This is a global epidemic. But unlike other health crises, we know exactly what to do: enforce speed limits, improve pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, make vehicles safer and raise awareness through education,” said Ambassador Mandela.

Her words have special significance in Latin America, which has the highest rate of road fatalities in the world (19.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, more than three times the rate of some European countries). The rate for South America is two points above the regional average and more than double that of Europe.

During the event, which was attended by government representatives from the region and multilateral agencies, experts discussed the measures adopted in Latin America during the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety and encouraged the development of regional and national road safety plans.

According to José Luis Irigoyen, Director of the World Bank’s Transport, Water and Information and Communication Technology Unit, the challenge of road safety is not only a public health problem; it also represents a threat to economic development.

 “Motor vehicle accidents represent between 1% and 3% of GDP of the world’s countries. In addition, the lack of road safety has a greater impact on the most vulnerable population groups,” he said.

For that reason, Irigoyen stressed the need to strengthen the joint efforts of the transportation and health sectors in an effort to promote multisectoral actions which are sustainable over time.

 

Open Quotes

We cannot wait any longer to act when we know that there are children who will die on the roads Close Quotes

Zenani Mandela
South African Ambassador to Argentina

What is being done in the region?

Since 2011, the Ibero-American Road Safety Observatory (OISEVI) has been establishing links to enable different countries in the region to share their knowledge. At the same time, it has developed a solid database, which can serve as input for formulating effective public policies.

The first Ibero-American database on traffic accidents was also created. It is available on the OISEVI website (s).

This ambitious project, which is part of activities from the Decade of Action for Road Safety launched by the United Nations, has become a reality thanks to the efforts of  countries within the region along with the World Bank, which provided technical and financial assistance for its design and implementation as well as serving as an intermediary between institutions such as the OECD and IRTAD.

Situation in other regions of the world

Approximately every six seconds, a  person is killed or injured approximately on the roads, whereas every three minutes a child dies in a traffic accident. Injuries due to traffic accidents are already among the leading causes of death for people aged bewteen five and 44.

Approximately 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and between 20 and 50 million are injured.

In 2004, injuries from traffic accidents were the ninth leading cause of death. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, they will become the fifth leading cause of death, overtaking diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.