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Road safety

Approximately 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. While the global rate for road traffic deaths is 17.4 per 100 000, there is great disparity by income, with rates higher in low- and middle-income countries than in the world’s high-income countries (WHO, 2018[29]). The burden of road traffic injuries falls disproportionately on vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Road injuries will cost the world economy USD 1·8 trillion (constant 2010 USD) in 2015-30, which is equivalent to an annual tax of 0.12% on global gross domestic product (Chen et al., 2019[30]). The SDG 3 target aims to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020, while SDG 11 relates to providing access to sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, and expanding public transport.

In 2016, LAC countries reported 17 deaths per 100 000 population due to road traffic accidents (Figure 4.26). In Saint Lucia, Dominican Republic and Venezuela, there were over 30 deaths per 100 000 population because of road traffic injuries in 2016, followed by Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay, Guyana and Belize with over 20 deaths. On the other end, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba have the lowest road traffic death rates.

The five key risk factors in road traffic deaths and injuries are drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat belts and child restraints (Table 4.1). In addition, distracted driving is a growing threat to road safety considering the use of mobile phone and other in-vehicle technologies. Texting causes cognitive distraction and both of manual and visual distraction as well. Even talking on mobile phones without holding or browsing a phone can reduce driving performance (WHO, 2018[29]). Since hands-free phone and hand-held phone are equally at risk of cognitive distraction, some national laws regulate both of the ways of using mobile phones (Table 4.1). Drinking and driving, especially with a blood alcohol concentration level of over 0.05g/dl (grammes per decilitre), greatly increases the risk of a crash and the possibility that it will result in death or serious injury. Furthermore, lower limit BAC limits (0.02 g/dl) for young people and novice drivers can reduce the risk of road crashes. Enforcement through random breath testing checkpoints is highly cost effective and can reduce alcohol-related crashes by approximately 20%.

Wearing a seat belt can reduce fatalities among front-seat passengers by up to 50% and among rear seat car passengers by up to 75%. A national law does not exist in Antigua and Barbuda, while several other countries do not require that all the occupants of a car wear a seat belt. Child restraint systems, such as child seats for infants and booster seats for older children, decrease the risk of death in a crash by about 70% for infants and up to 80% for small children. However, mandatory child restraint national laws exist only in 16 LAC countries.

In high-income countries, speed contributes to about 30% of road deaths, while in some low and middle-income countries speed is the main factor in about half of road deaths. Speed limits are enforced by a national law in all LAC countries except in Venezuela. However, in several countries speed limits are not adapted at the local level (Table 4.1).

Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. When motorcycle helmet laws are enforced, helmet-wearing rates can increase to over 90%. However, four countries does not have a regulation mandating helmet use. Motorcycle helmet wearing rate is very low in Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Jamaica, and in rural areas of most countries. Only Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba and Surinam report motorcycle helmet use over 80% in rural areas.

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Definition and comparability

To calculate road injury mortality data, countries were classified into four groups: (1) Countries with death registration data completeness of at least 80%. For these countries’ death registration, projection of the most recent death registration, reported death or projected reported deaths were used. (2) Countries with other sources of information on cause of death. For these countries a regression method was used to project forward the most recent year for which an estimate of total road traffic deaths was available. (3) Countries with population less than 150 000 and which did not have eligible death registration data. For these countries the death reported in the survey were used directly, without adjustment. (4) Countries without eligible death registration data. For these countries a negative binomial regression model was used. For more information about this process, see the report Global Status Report on Road Safety (WHO, 2018[31]).

References

[30] Chen, S. et al. (2019), “The global macroeconomic burden of road injuries: estimates and projections for 166 countries”, The Lancet Planetary Health, Vol. 3/9, pp. e390-e398, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(19)30170-6.

[29] WHO (2018), Road traffic injuries, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/road-traffic-injuries.

[31] WHO (2018), The Global Status Report on Road Safety, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/publications-detail/global-status-report-on-road-safety-2018.

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Figure 4.26. Road traffic death rates, 2016
Figure 4.26. Road traffic death rates, 2016

Source: WHO GHO 2018.

 StatLink https://stat.link/mowfry

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Table 4.1. Existence of a national legislation on five main risk factors of road traffic deaths, 2016 or latest year available

Country

Drink Diving

Seat-belt

Child restraint

Speed limit

Motorcycle helmet

Mobile phone use

National law

Road traffic deaths to alcohol (%)

National law

Applicability to all occupants

National law

National or local law

Rural (km/h)

Urban (km/h)

National law

Motorcycle helmet wearing rate (% drivers / % passengers)

National law on hand-held/hand-free mobile phone use

Antigua and Barbuda

Yes

17.95

No

No

National

64

32

No

No

Argentina

Yes

18.13

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

110

60

Yes

65/44

Yes

Barbados

Yes

17.06

Yes

Yes

Yes

National

80

80

Yes

Yes

Belize

Yes

20.70

Yes

No

No

National

88

40

Yes

No

Bolivia

Yes

20.84

Yes

No

No

Both

80

40

Yes

52/3

No

Brazil

Yes

19.52

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

80

60

Yes

83/80

Yes

Chile

Yes

16.68

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

100

60

Yes

99/98

Yes

Colombia

Yes

20.34

Yes

Yes

No

Both

120

80

Yes

96/80

Yes

Costa Rica

Yes

19.69

Yes

Yes

Yes

National

60

50

Yes

98/92

Yes

Cuba

Yes

18.82

Yes

Yes

No

National

90

50

Yes

95/90

Yes

Dominica

Yes

18.97

Yes

Yes

No

None

No

No

Dominican Republic

Yes

20.75

Yes

Yes

Yes

National

60

60

Yes

27/2

Yes

Ecuador

Yes

20.34

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

120

60

Yes

90/12-52

Yes

El Salvador

Yes

20.75

Yes

No

Yes

National

90

50

Yes

Yes

Grenada

Yes

20.26

Yes

No

No

National

64

32

Yes

No

Guatemala

Yes

21.68

Yes

No

No

Both

80

60

Yes

36/11

Yes

Guyana

Yes

20.84

Yes

No

Yes

National

64

64

No

50/20

Yes

Honduras

Yes

21.92

Yes

Yes

No

National

Yes

Yes

Jamaica

Yes

19.11

Yes

Yes

Yes

National

80

48

Yes

6/2

No

Mexico

Yes

20.39

Yes

No

Both

20-90

20-70

No

83/55

No

Panama

Yes

19.23

Yes

Yes

No

National

100

80

Yes

Yes

Paraguay

Yes

20.49

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

110

50

Yes

Yes

Peru

Yes

20.34

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

60

60

Yes

70/8

Yes

Saint Lucia

Yes

19.85

Yes

No

No

National

24

24

Yes

Yes

Suriname

Yes

20.26

Yes

Yes

Yes

National

80

40

Yes

95/92

Yes

Trinidad and Tobago

Yes

18.49

Yes

No

Yes

National

80

50

Yes

Yes

Uruguay

Yes

18.32

Yes

Yes

Yes

Both

90

45

Yes

80/71

Yes

Venezuela

Yes

19.85

Yes

Yes

Yes

None

Yes

Yes

LAC28

19.70

 

82.25

53.125

Note: Speed limit regulation in 2015 (Global status report on road safety, 2015).

Source: WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, CONAPRA 2015 for Mexico.

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