PAHO’s new “Report on Road Safety in the Region of the Americas” provides a snapshot of the road safety situation in 31 countries and territories of the Western Hemisphere, based on the latest available data.
It shows that more than 154,000 people died as a result of traffic-related injuries in the Americas in 2013.
This represents nearly 12 percent of all traffic-related deaths at the global level, where traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 29, particularly among men (73 percent).
“Road traffic crashes continue to cause too many preventable injuries and deaths and place a heavy load on healthcare services,” said PAHO’s Dominican-born director Carissa F. Etienne, who added that “Strong and sustained enforcement of effective laws and public awareness campaigns are vital to reduce this burden.”
The report notes that countries have generally not done enough to implement the five key measures that are known to be most effective: maximum speed limits of 50 km/h in urban areas, required seat-belt use for all vehicle occupants, blood alcohol limits of no more than 0.05g/dl for drivers, mandated helmet use for all motorcycle riders, and required use of child restraints in vehicles.
The report says 29 countries and territories of the Americas have some type of national seat-belt law, but only 19 have legislation requiring seat-belt use for all vehicle occupants.
It pointed out that six countries have national laws on driving under the influence that set maximum blood alcohol concentration at 0.05g/dl or less for adult drivers and 0.02 g/dl or less for young or novice drivers.
Additionally, the report says 17 countries and territories have national laws that set a maximum speed of 50 km/h in urban areas, and 13 have legislation allowing local authorities to reduce speed limits even further. Only 5 countries have laws meeting both those criteria, which is considered a best practice, the report says.
Almost half of all road deaths in the Americas are among those users with the least protection: motorcyclists (who represent 20 percent of traffic deaths), pedestrians (22 percent) and cyclists (3 percent).
The report says deaths among motorcyclists grew the most among traffic fatalities and motorcycle deaths rose from 15 percent to 20 percent of all road deaths between 2010 and 2013.
However, when examined by sub-region, the report finds that nearly half (47 percent) of traffic-related deaths in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (Cuba and the Dominican Republic) involved motorcyclists.
This increase is associated with the hemisphere’s expanding motorcycle fleet, which almost doubled from 2007 to 2013, rising from 6 percent to 11 percent of all motor vehicles.
“Rapid urbanization, the need to get around quickly, and improved economic growth in some countries have contributed to the fact that people who previously walked now ride a motorcycle,” said Eugenia Rodrigues, PAHO’s Regional Advisor on Road Safety.
“Having a safe, affordable and efficient public transportation system and good infrastructure, with sidewalks, traffic lights, footpaths, and crossings, is key to protect health and also to increase people’s physical activity.”
PAHO noted that The Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) calls on countries to implement internationally identified measures to make their roads safer.
The organisation says that through its regional report, it monitors progress, while the World Health Organization (WHO) monitors the global situation through its Global Status Report on Road Safety series.
In September 2015, heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly adopted the historic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes a target to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020.
“While progress has been achieved in recent years, much more needs to be done to galvanize urgent action and to save more lives,” Etienne said.
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