Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million
people are killed in transport accidents each year, most of which are road traffic
accidents, and as many as 50 million people are injured or disabled (WHO, 2009a). In OECD
countries alone transport accidents were responsible for more than 120 000 deaths in 2009,
occurring most often in the United States (45 000), Mexico (17 000), Korea and Japan
(7 000 each). In addition, there were 38 000 deaths in the Russian Federation.
Mortality from road accidents is the
leading cause of death among children and young people - especially young men - in many
countries. Most fatal traffic injuries occur in passenger vehicles, although the fatality
risk for motor cycles and mopeds is highest among all modes of transport (OECD/ITF,
Besides the adverse social, physical
and psychological effects, the direct and indirect financial costs of transport accidents
are substantial; one estimate put these at 2% of gross national product annually in
highly-motorised countries (Peden et al., 2004).
Death rates were the highest in the
Russian Federation in 2009, and among OECD countries, in Mexico and the United States, all
in excess of 14 deaths per 100 000 population (Figure 1.5.1). They were the lowest in Iceland, the Netherlands and the
United Kingdom, at four deaths per 100 000 population or less, much lower than the OECD
average of 8.2. A five-fold difference exists between Iceland and Mexico, the OECD
countries with the lowest and highest rates. In all countries, death rates from transport
accidents are much higher for males than for females, with disparities ranging from twice
as high in New Zealand to almost five times higher in Greece and Chile. On average, three
times as many males than females die in transport accidents (Figure 1.5.1).
Much transport injury and mortality is
preventable. Road security has increased greatly over the past decades in many countries
through improvements of road systems, education and prevention campaigns, the adoption of
new laws and regulations and the enforcement of these laws through more traffic controls.
As a result, death rates due to transport accidents have been halved in OECD countries
since 1995 (Figure 1.5.2). Estonia, Iceland, Korea, Portugal and Japan
have seen the largest declines, with a reduction of 60% or more since 1995, although the
number of vehicle kilometres travelled has increased in the same period (OECD/ITF, 2010).
Death rates have also declined in the United States, but at a slower pace, and therefore
remain above the OECD average. In Chile and the Russian Federation, there have been
significant increases in death rates from road accidents since 1995 (Figure 1.5.3).
The effects of the recent economic
crisis may have had a favourable outcome on transport accident mortality. Many countries
had a slight decrease or stagnation in traffic volumes, but a much more significant
reduction in fatalities. However, in the long-term, effective road safety policies are the
main contributor to reduced mortality (OECD/ITF, 2011).
Definition and comparability
Mortality rates are based on
numbers of deaths registered in a country in a year divided by the size of the
corresponding population. The rates have been directly age-standardised to the 1980
OECD population to remove variations arising from differences in age structures across
countries and over time. The source is the WHO Mortality
Deaths from transport accidents
are classified to ICD-10 codes V01-V89. Mortality rates from road traffic accidents in
Luxembourg are biased upward because of the large volume of traffic in transit,
resulting in a significant proportion of non-residents killed. Mathers et al. (2005) have provided a general assessment of the
coverage, completeness and reliability of data on causes of death.