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Road safety in the developing world. 5th Annual Public Health Forum, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 4-7 April 1995

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TANPORT RESEARCH LABORATORY TITLE Road safety in the developing world by G Dlacobs Overseas Centre Transport Research Laboratory Crowthorne Berkshire United Kingdom IA I/' . I;-,_- JACOBS, G D (1 995). Road safety in the developing world. 5th Annual Public Health Forum, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 4 -7 Apr11 1995. PA 3049/95 ROAD SAFETY IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD by DR G D JACOBS presented at FIFTH ANNUAL PUBLIC HEALTH FORUM HEMALTI1 AT THE CROSSROADS TRANSPORT POLICY AND URBAN HEALTH 4 -7 April 1995 LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE & TROPICAL MEDICINE 1. INTRODUCTION Recent and independent studies by both the World Health Organisation and the World Bank (1990) estimate that about 600,000 people lose their lives each year as a result of road accidents and over 15 million suffer injuries. The majority of these, about 70 per cent, occur in those countries of Africa and Asia which the World Bank classifies as low or middle income. Whereas the road accident situation is slowly improving in the high income countries, most developing countries face a worsening situation. As infectious diseases are brought increasingly under control, road deaths and injury rise in relative importance. In Thailand for example, more years of potential life are lost through road accidents than from tuberculosis and malaria combined (Yerrell 1992); in Mexico, accidents as a cause of death rose from 4 per cent in 1955 to 1 1 per cent in 1980, with traffic accidents playing the leading role. The question needs to be posed whether or not this is the inevitable price that has to be paid by these countries for the mobility of people and goods which is the hallmark of an industrialised society? This paper presents a broad review of the road safety problem in developing countries and outlines recommendations for improvement based on detailed research carried out by the Overseas Centre at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) over the last 20 years. The work described forms part of a programme of research at TRL, on the highway and transport problems of 1 developing countries under funding from the Overseas Development Administration -which the author gratefully acknowledges. 2. BACKGROUND Studies carried out by the TRL have demonstrated that road accidents in the Third World are: (i) A serious problem in terms of fatality rates, with rates at least an order of magnitude higher than those in industrialised countries (Jacobs 1986) (ii) An important cause of death and injury (iii) A considerable waste of scarce financial (and other) resources, typically costing at least one per cent of a country's gross national product per annum (Jacobs and Fouracre 1976) 2.1 Rates and trends The rate used by TRL to compare the seriousness of the road accident problem in different countries throughout the world is the number of deaths from road accidents per annum per 10,000 vehicles licensed. This is far from ideal as an indicator of relative safety in different countries. For example, the injury accidents per million vehicle-km travelled per annum may be a much better parameter to use. Unfortunately, the reporting of non-fatal accidents in most Third World countries is poor and few carry out traffic surveys and censuses which provide information on annual travel by different classes of vehicle. 2 '80 120 100 -zo -0 'C z - -~ ~~~~~~~ < z< 2~~~~~~~~ Z < =