Every year more than 1.17 million people die in road crashes around the world. The majority of these deaths, about 70 percent occur in developing countries. Sixty-five percent of deaths involve pedestrians and 35 percent of pedestrian deaths are children. Over 10 million are crippled or injured each year. It has been estimated that at least 6 million more will die and 60 million will be injured during the next 10 years in developing countries unless urgent action is taken.
The majority of road crash victims (injuries and fatalities) in developing countries are not the motorised vehicle occupants, but pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and non-motorised vehicles (NMV) occupants.
In order to appreciate the scale of the problem, it is common practice to relate the number of crashes, collisions and casualties to demographic and other information and to compare this relationship between countries. The most meaningful statistic for international comparison is the crash rate (in units of deaths, casualties or crashes per million vehicle kilometres). Adequate information on vehicle usage is not readily available for many countries. Hence it is usual to compare the number of fatalities per 10,000 vehicles (MS-Excel file). Another useful method of comparison is the fatality risk per 100,000 population, which is generally used by other medical sectors.
Economic Perspective on Traffic Safety
Road crashes cost approximately 1 to 3 percent of a country's annual Gross National Product (GNP). These are resources that no country can afford to lose, especially those with developing economies. It is estimated that developing countries currently lose in the region of $100 billion every year. This is almost twice as much as the total development assistance received worldwide by the developing countries. These losses undoubtedly inhibit the economic and social development of developing countries.
An estimate of the total national cost of road accidents will help government's to realise the heavy economic losses being incurred annually as described in the "gross output" method of accident costing and socio-economic aspects of road accidents in developing countries. Governments must try to reduce these losses by providing road safety improvements and should see expenditure on road safety as an investment and not as a cost.
Data Systems and Analysis
Data is the cornerstone of all road safety activity and is essential for the diagnosis of the road crash problem and for monitoring road safety efforts. It is important to identify what categories of road users are involved in crashes, what manoeuvres and behaviour patterns lead to crashes and under what conditions crashes occur, in order to focus on safety activities.
Essential components of a crash/casualty data system are a standardised report form and a means of storing and analysing the data. The UK Transport Research Laboratory has developed a Microcomputer Accident Analysis Package (MAAP) to enable users to obtain good data for diagnosis, planning, evaluation and research purposes and this is in use around the world. Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) has developed a Tool for Estimation of Traffic Safety Effects of Road Improvements (TARVA). (The initial screen for this link is in Finnish with underlying links in English.) The method uses road, traffic and crash information for estimation of road safety in terms of crash reduction and avoided fatalities.
The AA document "What goes wrong in highway design and how to put it right: common criticisms and advice from safety auditors" includes useful examples for pedestrian, cyclist and motorcyclist safety provision.