ROAD accidents kill someone, somewhere, every 24 seconds.
The World Health Organisation has revealed there are 1.35 million traffic deaths around the world each year, and has urged global action.
The number of fatalities annually has swelled by around 100,000 in the past three years, with road accidents now the leading killer of children and young people between the ages of five and 29, the health agency said.
But it appears the surge is due mainly to more crashes in highly populated, less developed countries.
Annual fatalities across all OECD countries have (with the exception of Iceland) shown declining trends in the last 25 years.
However, further analysis over the last 10 years shows those countries with the highest population and vehicle registration growth have had the smallest reduction in fatalities.
“These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility,” WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.
“There is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions.”
The WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety, based on data from 2016, showed the situation is worsening, with the African continent one of the worst performers.
In its last report, based on data from 2013, the number of road traffic deaths was estimated at 1.25 million annually.
The death rate on the African continent was 26.6 annual road deaths for every 100,000 citizens, compared with 9.3 in Europe.
South Africa is not far behind its African counterparts, with 25.1 deaths per 100,000, which is almost 10 times worse than the best-performing nations — Norway and Switzerland — both on 2.59 fatalities per 100,000 people.
Despite the increase in the overall number of fatalities, the rate of death compared to the growing number of people and cars in the world has stabilised in recent years.
“This suggests that existing road safety efforts in some middle and high-income countries have mitigated the situation,” WHO said.
It was largely due to better legislation around key risks, including speeding, drinking driving, and failing to use a seatbelt, child restraints or helmets, the report found.
Safer infrastructure like sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes and better vehicle standards have also paid off.
But while many countries have stepped up efforts to improve the situation, many poorer nations are lagging way behind.
“Not a single low income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths,” the report said, adding that the risk of a road traffic death remained three times higher there than in high income countries.
It also showed a devastating disregard for the most vulnerable in traffic, with more than half of all those killed in road accidents either pedestrians or on two wheels, who accounted for 28 per cent of all traffic deaths, with the figure as high as 44 per cent in Africa and 43 per cent in South-east Asia.