Half A Million Deaths Each Year Could Be Prevented With These Fixes To Road Safety, Study Finds

Published 11 months ago


More than half a million deaths could be prevented each year by ensuring people wear helmets and seat belts, respect speed limits and don’t drive while drunk according to a new study, as researchers suggest many governments have not prioritized enhancing traffic safety in recent years.


Anywhere from 25% to 40% of road deaths could be prevented by targeting speeding, drunk driving and helmet and seat-belt wearing in 185 countries each year, researchers estimated using a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed studies.

Tackling speeding with changes such as infrastructure improvement or electronic speed controls would save the most deaths—more than 340,0000 annually—researchers estimated, while enforcing rules on motorcycle helmet and seat-belt wearing could prevent more than 120,000 fatalities.

In the U.S., about 43,000 lives could be saved each year by targeting all four of these factors, according to the paper, one in a series of studies published in the Lancet on Wednesday focused on road safety.

The majority of traffic deaths are preventable, Dr. Adnan Hyder, coordinator of the study series and professor of global health at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, said in a statement, adding deaths continue to rise annually in low-income countries while “progress in high-income countries has slowed over the past decade.”


Nearly 1.4 million. That’s how many people die each year from traffic injuries, while 50 million people are injured annually. More than 90% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.


“There have been many successes on road safety at the global level including its inclusion in the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals, but the rhetoric has yet to deliver results on the ground,” series co-author Dr. Margie Peden, head of the Global Injury Programme at the George Institute for Global Health in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “A real, sustained decline in global road traffic injuries and deaths will only happen with a focus on implementation of effective interventions and concerted country action.”


Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death worldwide for those ages 5-29, while low- and middle-income countries see the greatest number of deaths and injuries from road traffic incidents, which are continuing to rise. In the U.S. in 2021, traffic deaths hit the highest level in 15 years, with more than 42,000 dying in motor vehicle traffic crashes, a 10% surge from 2020. Members of the United Nations in 2015 adopted more than a dozen sustainable development goals to improve the lives of people around the world, including cutting traffic and injury deaths in half by 2030, but the world is at “great risk” of not achieving this goal, researchers in one of the series’ studies contended. They suggested it may be harder for governments to achieve this goal, as they’ve had to shift their priorities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Researchers argued governments should focus on minimum drinking age laws, seat belt and helmet laws, enforcement of speeding laws and lower blood-alcohol content level requirements for new drivers, all of which have been proven to prevent traffic deaths.


2021 Traffic Deaths Hit Highest Level In Over 15 Years (Forbes)

By Madeline Halpert, Forbes Staff