I was rather taken aback with some of the coverage today of a news story that children who live in poorer areas of the UK were more likely to be involved in traffic accidents. The coverage was almost amused and somewhat surprised in tone and gave commentators a chance to have a dig at the drivers of “Chelsea tanks” – enormous SUVs driven by affluent women in this rich part of London – whose children are the least likely to be involved in an accident according to a new report. The report, by Road Safety Analysis, which has analysed five years’ data covering over 120,000 child road casualties across the UK found, for example, that “children living in Preston are more than twice as likely to be injured on the road than the national average, and five times more likely than those in Kensington & Chelsea.”
This is obviously an important analysis and gives proper attention to the huge toll that road traffic accidents take each year across the UK. In the developing world the toll from road traffic accidents takes is an order of magnitude higher. According to the 2001 Global Burden of Disease Study there were more than 5 million deaths from road traffic accidents, of which 4.7 million were in the developing world. The burden of disease, measured in the years of healthy life lost, is hard to comprehend as it runs into hundreds of millions. These are staggering figures and reflect on the global scale what the UK report shows: that the burden of accidents falls, as with many other diseases, disproportionately on the countries and people least able to bear them. Road traffic accidents and the social and economic issues that influence them are also under-represented in medical journals and are thus one of the priority areas that we want to publish more on at PLoS Medicine (see here and here for examples of papers we have previously published on road traffic accidents) and we encourage submissions in this area.