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15 March 2013

Africa losing the fight against road deaths

Africa in particular is losing the fight against road accidents, which kill more than one million people worldwide each year, a UN World Health Organisation report showed, calling for stricter laws to help turn around the trend.

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Africa in particular is losing the fight against road accidents, which kill more than one million people worldwide each year, a UN World Health Organisation report showed, calling for stricter laws to help turn around the trend.

"We are not all equal before road traffic crashes," Etienne Krug, who heads the WHO's department of violence and injury prevention, said ahead of the report's launch, cautioning that road safety seemed to be getting worse in about half of the world's countries.

The WHO "Global status report on road safety 2013" showed that rapidly motorising middle-income countries, especially in Africa and also the Middle East, were seeing the highest number of deaths.

This was linked to the failure of legislation, enforcement and the protection of so-called "vulnerable road users" like pedestrians and cyclists to keep up with expanding car use, it said.

Road fatalities in Africa

In Africa, 24.1 of every 100 000 people die in traffic accidents, compared to just 10.3 per 100 000 in Europe, which has the lowest death toll, the report showed.

In Africa, "we see economic development, new roads being built, cars being imported and new drivers taking to the roads, and this is not matched with the necessary safety measures," Krug told reporters in Geneva.

He described situations in numerous African villages where dirt roads are replaced by tarmac, and suddenly "cars are driving four or five times faster through the village, but nothing is done to facilitate walking (and) there is no easy way to cross it in a safe way, so deaths and injuries go up," he said.

What the WHO report say

According to the 318-page WHO report, which includes data from 182 countries accounting for about 99% of the world population, some 1.24 million people die globally in road accidents each year while as many as 50 million more are injured.

Traffic accidents are thus the eighth leading cause of death worldwide, and the top cause among people aged 15 to 29. Without action, they are set to become the fifth leading cause of death among all age groups by 2030, the report warned.

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