Roads kill: The toll of traffic accidents is rising in poor countries

Roads kill: The toll of traffic accidents is rising in poor countries

An interactive flash map from the Pulitzer Center has been published and illustrates the number of deaths on a countries road per 100,000 citizens allowing us to see a comparison of deaths between rich and poor parts of the world. The global road death toll has already reached 1.24 million per year and is on course to triple to 3.6 million per year by 2030. In the developing world, where this pandemic has hit hardest, it will become the fifth leading cause of death, leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other familiar killers, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent Global Burden of Disease study.

pullitzer
Published by the Pulitzer Center - Article viewable here


More than 1.2 million are killed on the world’s roads each year—and that number is increasing rapidly. If nothing is done to reverse this trend, the annual death toll is on course to triple by 2030.

The toll is highest in the developing world. Poor countries account for 50 percent of the world’s road traffic, but 90 percent of the traffic fatalities. Road accidents will soon become the fifth leading cause of death in these countries, leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other familiar killers, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent Global Burden of Disease study.

Highway fatalities are also a “poverty-inducing problem,” according to Jose Luis Irigoyen, a highway safety expert at the World Bank. “It’s costing on average between 1 and 3 percent of GDP” in low- and middle-income countries, he says, an amount that can offset the billions of dollars in aid money that these countries currently receive.
 

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Low and middle income countries such as those in Africa struggle the most against the road traffic crash burden.
 

In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a “Decade of Action for Road Safety.” The goal is to stabilize and eventually reverse the upward trend in road fatalities, saving an estimated 5 million lives during the period. The World Bank and other regional development banks have made road safety a priority, but according to Irigoyen, donor funding lags “very far below” the $24 billion that has been pledged to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In “Roads Kill,” The Washington Post joins with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to bring stories from around the world about this neglected but easily curable public-health crisis.

 

A busy intersection in Kano, Nigeria.
A busy intersection in Kano, Nigeria. (Ameto Akpe/Courtesy of Pulitzer Center)


Nigeria Analysis from the Washington Post

ABUJA — The green-and-white taxi sped through the intersection, ignoring the traffic policewoman officer and narrowly missing a red Honda Civic coming from the adjacent road.

“Wèr è!” — the word means “lunatic” in the Yoruba language — the policewoman screams at the offending driver as he steps on the gas and zooms away. She glares at the disappearing vehicle, powerless to do anything else — no ticket, no fine, nothing for Nigeria’s reckless drivers who routinely act as though the law does not apply to them. It’s only 11:30 a.m. in Abuja, Nigeria’s busy capital, and this policewoman is about to witness several more infractions.

In Nigeria, speed limits appear to be viewed as mere suggestions, lanes are flexible, driving against traffic is routine and if you are caught, a little money can make all your troubles go away.
 

roadskill map
View the interactive map here.


Nigeria has the worst driving record in Africa: nearly 34 deaths for every 100,000 residents, according to a 2013 World Health Organization report. The Federal Road Safety Commission, the agency responsible for road safety administration in the country, blames most of these accidents on speeding. The country’s notoriously poorly maintained roads, riddled with potholes, help ensure that Nigeria is among the most dangerous places in the world to drive.

“It is not just about drivers here not regarding the rules,” says Afolabi Bakare, a taxi driver. “The truth is most of them do not even know the rules. How many people go to driving school before they get their driving licenses? To tell the truth, even me — I did not know how to drive very well when I got my driver’s license.”

Links

View Map @Pulitzer Center
Washington Post Analysis