WHO Report Highlights Global Health Risk of Traffic
Surveying data on crashes and driving from 178 nations, the WHO found that wealthy nations such as the U.S., U.K. and Germany own more than half of the world's registered cars but suffer only 8.5 percent of global traffic fatalities.
It is low-income nations, from Vietnam to Ghana to Nepal, that must contend with more than 40 percent of worldwide traffic deaths despite owning less than 10 percent of all registered cars.
The WHO also found that non-drivers bear a significant share of traffic's health risks. Pedestrians and bike riders of all types account for nearly one-half of the world's 1.27 million annual deaths on the road.
Only 15 percent of nations, according to the report, have laws that fully address the five risk factors for traffic safety: speed, helmets, child restraints, seat belts and drunk driving.
As the Washington Post noted, the report's authors (who received funding from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's philanthropic group) think their conclusions can provide momentum for something resembling a global "complete streets" movement:
Until the current recession, auto sales in some developing countries were increasing by more than 10 percent a year. The authors hope the report will help stimulate governments and engineers to design roads that can accommodate a huge influx of cars but also out-of-car users.