21 March 2013

Africans Most Likely to Die From Road Accidents

If you are an African, between 15 and 44 years, and you either walk or use a motorcycle or bicycle to reach your destination, you have high chances of dying from a road traffic injury.

The latest Global Status Report on Road Safety (2013) reveals that the risk of dying as a result of a road traffic injury is highest in the African region (24.1 per 100,000 population), and lowest in the European Region (10.3 per 100,000).

The report further shows that half of the world's road traffic deaths occur among motorcyclists (23 per cent), pedestrians (22 per cent) and cyclists (5 per cent) -- with 31 per cent of deaths among car occupants and the remaining 19 per cent among unspecified road users.

The report adds that 80 per cent of road traffic deaths occur in middle-income countries, which account for 72 per cent of the world's population, but with only 52 per cent of the world's registered vehicles.

The report by the World Health Organisation indicates that these countries (middle-income) bear a disproportionately high burden of road traffic deaths relative to their level of motorisation.

For low income and middle income countries, the amount of road crashes is unacceptably high. These countries are those in Africa, South America, South East Asia and Eastern Europe. This shows that more action is needed to curb these deaths, most of which are preventable.

At the same time, the global status report suggests that high income countries, which have nearly half of the entire world's vehicles, have enacted road safety measures, systems, strategies, policies, and laws which reduced the amount of people killed in those countries.

A WHO report in 2009 said that road traffic injuries was one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. These account for more than 1.2 million deaths -- 3.6 percent of the global mortality burden.

The accidents on Kenyan roads not only cause deaths, but they also cause injury and losses amounting to billions of shillings. Globally, 3,500 people die in road accidents every day. The total cost of is Sh40 trillion. Compare this to Kenya's 2012-2013 projected budget expenditure of Sh1.1475 trillion.

One interesting aspect of the report is the revelation that young adults aged between 15 and 44 years account for 59 per cent of global road traffic deaths. The report suggests that the economy of a country is related to the amount of road crashes in that country or the absence of the same.

The Kenya Census 2009 shows that the bulk of the population falls in the age range of 15 to 64 years. This therefore means that any death caused by traffic injuries affects the individuals found in this age bracket. These are people who are either in school or college, or who are working or doing business.

The report seems to confirm findings of a study published in 2011 which highlighted the significant burden of road traffic injuries in Kenya. The analysis, approved and reviewed by the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, showed that RTIs and fatalities mostly affect males between the economically productive ages of 15 and 45 years.

These individuals are also often the heads of households, and their mortality could have potentially long-term implications on not only the financial sustainability of the family but also their social well-being. The analysis further revealed that RTIs (and related fatalities) continue to increase in Kenya, with motorcyclists (both drivers and passengers) as well as pedestrians among the most affected.

The global status report serves as a baseline for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, declared by the UN General Assembly. The goal of the decade is to stabilise and reduce the increasing trend in road traffic fatalities, saving an estimated five million lives over the period.

Ironically, the report shows that only 28 countries, covering seven per cent of the world's population, have comprehensive road safety laws on five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints. These countries have passed laws to address one or more key risk factors affecting road traffic injuries and fatalities.

Kenya has enacted laws under the Traffic Act which specifically touch on speed and drink-driving, use of helmets and seat belts, and the attendant penalties for violation. The most recent laws to be enacted were amendments to the Traffic Act, Amendment Act 37 and 38 of 2012, which has stiffer penalties for violation of traffic laws. The government expects these new laws will help reduce accidents and bring back sanity on our roads.

With this report, it is hoped that low-income and middle-income countries, Kenya included, will come up with more stringent laws that will help curb the loss of life on our roads.

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