According to a recent World Bank report, about 1.25 million people die on the world’s roads every year, and another 20-50 million are seriously injured. On top of that, road traffic injuries “are the single largest cause of mortality and long-term disability among people aged 15-29….”
The fatalities and injuries are horrific, but the report goes on to detail the effect of these losses on the economic and social welfare of low- and middle-income countries.
World Bank Analyzes Effect of Traffic Injuries on Economic and Social Welfare
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that there were 34,439 fatal car crashes in the U.S. in 2016, and safety organizations are working to get that number down. But according to this recent report, 90 percent of road traffic injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries. The World Bank, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, wanted to find out how that was affecting economic growth and social welfare.
They conducted an analysis based on data collected from 135 countries over 25 years. They turned their focus to five diverse countries—China, India, the Philippines, Thailand, and Tanzania. They found that overall, reducing the number of road traffic injuries (RTIs) “not only increases income growth, but also generates substantial welfare benefits to societies.”
More specifically, they found that making changes to increase roadway safety could lead to long-term income growth—a 7 to 22 percent increase in GDP per capita—and could build human capital.
Other Studies Find that Car Accidents Create a Public Health Problem
This isn’t the first time scientists have looked into this connection. In 2012, for example, researchers noted that road traffic accidents had emerged “as an important public health issue….” They added that the rising number of injuries and deaths in countries like India was “becoming alarming,” and increasing day by day.
These accidents create a large burden on not only those who are injured, but their families and others. Researchers noted that the victims typically suffer social, physical, and psychological effects, and that the accidents put a significant strain on health care budgets. They suggested interventions to increase safety, including the following:
- Phase out old, highly polluting vehicles and make sure the new ones all have seat belts and other safety provisions.
- Maintain good road conditions and proper footpaths for pedestrians. Make sure roads and junctions are wide and well lit.
- Make sure drivers are properly trained and properly licensed.
- Pass laws to require the wearing of helmets by two-wheeled vehicles and seat belts by four-wheeled vehicles.
- Enforce traffic rules, remove stray animals from the roadways and footpaths, and prevent haphazard parking on busy roads.
- Provide medical care and first aid care facilities on highways and busy roads, and make sure victims get adequate medical treatment.