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Ibero-American countries come together to reduce road deaths

May 11, 2012

Washington, May 11, 2012– The burden of traffic accidents continues to be a missing link for development in Latin America. With 130,000 people killed and six million injured annually, Latin America must mourn the loss of human lives on its highways more than any other region.

Over the past year the Ibero-American Road Safety Observatory (OISEVI) has been building bridges between different countries within the region to share knowledge and also develop a solid database on which to establish efficient public policies. With this they have developed the first Ibero-American database on accidents, which is now available on the OISEVI website.

"The OISEVI can collaborate in transferring successful road safety efforts from other countries so that Ibero-American countries can adopt them more quickly and effectively,” said OISEVI Technical Secretary Ana Ferrer.

This ambitious project is framed within the United Nation’s Decade of Action for Road Safety. It became a reality thanks to the efforts of the countries of the region and the World Bank, which is helping to bring the various parties together and promote technical cooperation among institutions such as the OECD and IRTAD. The Bank is also providing technical and financial assistance (through a GRSF grant) for its design and implementation.

"Everyone has a role to play, including governments at all levels, transportation entities, civil society, the automotive industry and the private sector. We need leadership and innovation to fulfill the promises of the decade,” said Veronica Raffo, World Bank senior infrastructure specialist.

The lack of reliable data poses a major stumbling block for analyzing traffic accidents in the region. For this reason, the observatory will create the first Latin American database, which is crucial for developing and evaluating efficient public policies, as well as for planning future activities.

Causes and solutions

The countries with the best traffic indicators register five deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. It is estimated that by 2020, Latin America will have 30 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. A leading cause of traffic accidents is the poor condition of the region’s roads, although there are also serious problems associated with alcohol consumption and the non-use of seat belts or helmets, factors which greatly increase the number of highway deaths.

Countries should adopt more efficient measures, such as promoting compliance with traffic regulations and ensuring medical attention immediately after accidents. As Raffo explains, this will enable “the countries, in the short term, to rapidly focus on the most critical segments of the road networks and on the main risk factors, while working in the longer term to ensure safe transportation for all citizens through a continuous process of road safety management.”

Worldwide, it is estimated that 90% of traffic deaths occur in developing countries, which demonstrates that this is not a problem exclusive to Latin America but rather a global burden that hinders countries’ development. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death of individuals between the ages of 15 and 44, even surpassing deaths caused by malaria.