Road deaths are making poor countries poorer

Road fatalities are becoming more of a problem in poor countries than the likes of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor on

All across the world roads are dangerous places. But over the next decade they're set to get even more dangerous as the global road death toll is expected to triple from 1.24 million per year to 3.6 million per year by 2030.

In the world's poorest countries, the problem is even more pronounced as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis will soon each account for fewer deaths than road accidents.

In a disturbing new series, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting says that road accidents will soon become the fifth leading cause of death in poor countries. And while these countries only account for about half of the world's traffic, they're where 90 percent of traffic fatalities occur. It's not only a problem that's costing many people their lives, but it's also holding back countries trying to get out of poverty:

Highway fatalities are also a “poverty-inducing problem,” according to Jose Luis Irigoyen, a highway safety expert at the World Bank. “It’s costing on average between 1 and 3 percent of GDP” in low- and middle-income countries, he says, an amount that can offset the billions of dollars in aid money that these countries currently receive.

Here are more fascinating statistics from the series:

  • With 24 fatalities per 100,000 people, Africa has the world's most dangerous roads.
  • The Dominican Republic is the most dangerous place to drive in the Americas with 42 fatalities per 100,000 people.
  • In Nigeria, the rate is highest in Africa at 33.7 deaths per 100,000.
  • In 2010, 12,000 Pakistanis died from motorcycles, 90 percent weren't wearing a helmet.
  • Only 6 percent of motorcycle riders in Jamaica wear helmets, despite a mandatory helmet law.
  • In Russia, the road fatality rate is about five times higher than most European Union countries.
  • In Kenya, privately-owned minibuses are the most dangerous, accounting for 38 percent of total road deaths.
  • China will soon become the most motorized country in the world with 200 million vehicles on the road.

But it's not all bad. If Australia is any indication, a major turnaround is possible. In the mid-1970, according to the report, the country had one of the world's worst driving death rates, around 30 per 100,000. But with strictly enforced driver safety laws that rate has plummeted to just 6 per 100,000.

For more, check out this fantastic interactive map on the global road death toll.

Read more: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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