7 DECEMBER 2018 | Geneva, Switzerland – A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates road traffic deaths continue to rise, with an annual 1.35 million fatalities. The WHO Global status report on road safety 2018 highlights that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years.

“These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “There is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions. This report is a call for governments and partners to take much greater action to implement these measures.”

The WHO Global status report on road safety 2018 documents that despite an increase in the overall number of deaths, the rates of death relative to the size of the world population have stabilized in recent years. This suggests that existing road safety efforts in some middle- and high-income countries have mitigated the situation.

“Road safety is an issue that does not receive anywhere near the attention it deserves – and it really is one of our great opportunities to save lives around the world,” said Michael R Bloomberg, Founder and CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “We know which interventions work. Strong policies and enforcement, smart road design, and powerful public awareness campaigns can save millions of lives over the coming decades.”  


The Region of the Americas accounts for 11% of global road traffic deaths at nearly 155,000 deaths per year. It has the second lowest road traffic fatality rate among WHO regions with a rate of 15.6 per 100,000 people. Car occupants account for 34% of road traffic deaths in the region, and motorcyclists account for 23%. This is an increase of 3% from the previous report. Pedestrians represent 22% of fatalities while cyclists represent 3%. A further 18% of deaths are from other categories or not specified.

In the settings where progress has been made, it is largely attributed to better legislation around key risks such as speeding, drinking and driving, and failing to use seat-belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints; safer infrastructure like sidewalks and dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control and advanced braking; and enhanced post-crash care.

The report documents that these measures have contributed to reductions in road traffic deaths in 48 middle- and high-income countries. However, not a single low-income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths, in large part because these measures are lacking.
In fact, the risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. The rates are highest in Africa (26.6 per 100 000 population) and lowest in Europe (9.3 per 100 000 population). On the other hand, since the previous edition of the report, three regions of the world have reported a decline in road traffic death rates: Americas, Europe and the Western Pacific.

Variations in road traffic deaths are also reflected by type of road user. Globally, pedestrians and cyclists account for 26% of all road traffic deaths, with that figure as high as 44% in Africa and 36% in the Eastern Mediterranean. Motorcycle riders and passengers account for 28% of all road traffic deaths, but the proportion is higher in some regions, e.g. 43% in South-East Asia and 36% in the Western Pacific.

In the Americas, there have been some improvements regarding institutional management: at least 29 out of 35 countries have a lead agency on road safety issues, 23 countries have road safety strategies, 23 countries have strategies that are funded and 18 have strategies with a fatality reduction target

However, in terms of legislation and road user behavior, much remains to be done. For example, 9 countries have laws that meet best practice on one risk factor only, but no country has laws that meet best practice on 5 risk factors, such as speed laws, drink-driving laws, helmet laws, seat-belt laws and child restraint laws.


Regarding safe roads, at least 26 countries have designed standards for pedestrian and cyclist safety; and 22 countries have policies and investment in urban public transport. On post-crash care, at least 18 countries in the region have a national single emergency number and eight countries have a trauma registry.


Editor’s note:

WHO’s global status reports on road safety are released every two to three years, and serve as the key monitoring tool for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.

Compared to the previous report in the series released in 2015, other findings from the Global status report on road safety 2018 include:

* 22 additional countries amended their laws on one or more risk factors to bring them in line with best practice, covering an additional 1 billion people;


* 46 countries representing 3 billion people have laws setting speed limits that align with best practice;


• 45 countries representing 2.3 billion people currently have drink-driving laws that align with best practice;

• 49 countries representing 2.7 billion people, currently have laws on motorcycle helmet use that align with best practice;

• 105 countries representing 5.3 billion people, currently have laws on seat-belt use that align with best practice, 19 of which are from the region of the Americas;

• 33 countries representing 652 million people, currently have laws on the use of child restraint systems that align with best practice, and 2 are from the Americas;

• 114 countries currently undertake some systematic assessment or star rating of existing roads, and 12 of those countries are from the region;

• Only 40 countries representing 1 billion people, have implemented at least 7 or all of the 8 priority UN vehicle safety standards. In the Americas, no country implements 7 to 8 of those safety standards.

• More than half of countries (62%) have a telephone number with full country coverage to activate the emergency care system;

• 55% of countries have a formal process to train and certify pre-hospital care providers. In the Americas, 14 countries have formal certification for pre-hospital providers

The Global status report on road safety 2018 was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies.


Global status report on road safety 2018

Road Safety in the Region of the Americas: Key Facts

PAHO Road Safety:


WHO fact sheet on road traffic injuries

WHO web site on road traffic injuries

SaveLIVES: a road safety technical package


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