A few weeks ago the number of people killed in road traffic crashes this year passed the one million mark. In fact as I write the number of deaths is closer to 1,020,000 and by the time you read this it will be more.
Of course nobody is recording each individual death, the figures are based on the WHO global Status Report on Road Safety 2009 which estimates that over 1.2 million people die in road traffic crashes globally every year. The report goes on to estimate that a further 20 to 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries every year due to collisions on roads.
Just over a year ago I was unfortunate enough to be involved in a road traffic crash that wrote-off the car I was driving. I was lucky and walked away from the collision because I was driving a modern car on relatively safe British roads and importantly I was wearing a seat-belt – thankfully nobody suffered long-term injuries and nobody died. It could have been very different; people die on British roads every week (1,850 people were killed in 2010).
Despite having just over half of the worlds registered vehicles only 10% of road traffic crashes occur in high-income countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly pedestrians, cyclists and those travelling on motorized two wheel vehicles account for a high proportion of deaths. In India, which has one of the worst records for road safety, 44% of the approximately 100,000 traffic fatalities in 2006 where accounted for by this vulnerable group.
Worryingly the date at which the one millionth death is reached is expected arrive earlier in future years because global road traffic mortality is increasing. By 2030 road traffic crashes are expected to have snaked up the rankings becoming the 5th leading global cause of mortality.