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Road traffic injuries


    Road traffic crashes result in the deaths of approximately 1.3 million people around the world each year and leave between 20 and 50 million people with non-fatal injuries. More than half of all road traffic deaths and injuries involve vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and their passengers.

    The young are particularly vulnerable on the world’s roads and road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29. Young males under 25 years are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females, with 73% of all road traffic deaths occurring among young males in that age. Developing economies record higher rates of road traffic injuries, with 93% of fatalities coming from low- and middle-income countries.

    In addition to the human suffering caused by road traffic injuries, they also incur a heavy economic burden on victims and their families, both through treatment costs for the injured and through loss of productivity of those killed or disabled. More broadly, road traffic injuries have a serious impact on national economies, costing countries 3% of their annual gross domestic product.

    Measures proven to reduce the risk of road traffic injuries and deaths exist and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set ambitious targets for reducing road traffic injuries.

    Risk factors

    Many factors increase both the risk of road traffic crashes and the risk of death or injury they result in.

    Driving at speed significantly increases both the likelihood of a crash occurring, and the severity of its consequences. For every 1% increase in mean speed there is a 4% increase in fatal crash risk. The risk of death for pedestrians hit by motorized vehicles also rises rapidly as speed increases. A pedestrian hit by a vehicle travelling at 65 kilometres per hour is 4.5 times more likely to die than those hit by a vehicle travelling at 50 kilometres per hour.

    Driving under the influence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances presents significant risk factor for road traffic injuries. In the case of drink driving, risk of road traffic injury increases significantly as the driver’s blood alcohol concentration goes up. In the case of drug-driving, the risk of road traffic injury increases to differing degrees depending on the psychoactive drug used.

    There are a number of other significant risk factors:

    • the non-use of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraint,
    • distraction, including the use of mobile phones, leading to impaired driving,
    • unsafe vehicles and unsafe road infrastructure can negatively impact safety on the roads,
    • inadequate post-crash care,
    • inadequate law enforcement of traffic laws.



    WHO response

    WHO works across sectors with Member States, national and international partners and stakeholders to support road safety evaluation, implementation and planning. As the lead agency for road safety in the United Nations, WHO plays a key role in guiding global efforts by continuing to advocate for road safety at the highest political levels, compiling and disseminating good practice in prevention, data collection, trauma care, and raising awareness of road safety. 

    Since 2004, WHO has also collaborated with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to share knowledge, experience and best practices; build skills in areas such as advocacy for legislative change, media engagement and evaluation; and facilitate coordination around major global events. WHO also chairs the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration and works towards the goals of the Decade of Action for Road Safety. Each year, WHO recognizes the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on the third Sunday of November. 


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