Scope of the Road Safety Problem

  1. Road traffic injury is a major global public health problem. Rapid motorization in low and middle income countries (LMICs) along with the poor safety quality of road traffic systems and the lack of institutional capacity to manage outcomes contribute to a growing crisis.
  2. More than 1.24 million people die each year on the world’s roads. Many more suffer permanent disability, and between 20 and 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. These are mainly in LMICs, amongst vulnerable road users and involve the most socio-economically active citizens.
  3. Road traffic injury is a leading cause of death globally for children and was a leading cause of death of young people aged 15-29 in 2010. Without urgent action, it is forecast that road traffic injury will be the 7th leading cause of death for all by 2030.
  4. In socio-economic terms, countries around the world are paying a high price for motorized mobility. Country estimates indicate that the value of preventing road death and injury is equivalent to 1% and 7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  5. Death and serious injuries from road crashes is preventable if crash energies are managed so that they do not exceed human tolerances for serious and fatal injury and through effective results-focused and resourced road safety management.
  6. The Safe System goal and strategy focus on providing a road traffic system free from death and serious injury. It does this by addressing unintentional error and human vulnerabilities.
  7. The Safe System guides the planning, design and management of the operation and use of the road traffic system so as to provide safety in spite of human fallibility. It places a shared accountability across all elements of the system.
  8. Preventing road trauma on public roads and in the course of work is a core responsibility for government, its agencies and employers and requires shared responsibility and leadership.
  9. The scale of the road safety challenge and the diversity of the effects of road traffic injury underline the importance of exploring synergies with other societal goals and priorities.
  10. A UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 has been announced with an ambitious global target and plan to reduce deaths in road traffic crashes.


  • Road Safety is an urgent international development priority in view of the growing humanitarian crisis of road traffic injury in low and middle income countries (LMICs)
  • In support of the UN Decade Of Action for Road Safety 2011-2010, a Global Plan has set a highly ambitious goal “to stabilize and then reduce forecast road deaths” by 2020. If achieved, the estimated saving would be 5 million lives and 50 million fewer serious injuries worldwide.
  • International development organizations concerned with transport and health are promoting the paradigm shift to the ethical Safe System goal and strategy, which involves zero tolerance of the traditional trade-off between mobility and serious and fatal road injury.
  • Safe System is seen as particularly relevant for LMICs since it addresses the human vulnerabilities of all road users. It aligns with a range of international development goals and public policies for sustainable transport, occupational health and safety, child welfare, and social equity.
  • Road Safety management capacity reviews and contributions to the Global Status Reports reveal systemic weakness in the road safety activity of LMICs, who need to rapidly shift from weak to stronger institutional management capacity in order to produce better results.
  • International development agencies emphasize that long term governmental ownership and leadership is required. Political interest needs to be translated into ambitious long-term goals, step-wise targets, and provision of appropriate human and financial resources.
  • LMICs need to be supported by substantially increased investments from aid agencies, wherever appropriate, to strengthen institutions and increase knowledge creation and transfer. Guidance and tools to aid targeted investments in capacity building for Safe System projects have been produced.
  • Road Safety professionals in High Income Countries (HICs) will need to continue to promote evidence-based approaches and, innovate approaches based on established safety principles.
  • The safe planning, design, operation and use of the road network is recognized as a fundamental intervention strategy and  prime focus of this initiative.

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