Road traffic injuries are a global killer — An estimated 1.35 million people die every year and more than 50 million are injured or disabled 

The Lancet
June 29, 2022

Site version edited by

Joaquim Cardoso MSc.
Health Revolution Institute
Atlas of Diseases Unit
June 30, 2022

Road traffic injuries (RTIs) are the eighth-leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 1·35 million deaths each year.

As detailed in the Lancet Series on Road Safety 2022, addressing the four main risk factors (ie, drink-driving, helmet use, speeding, and seat belt use) could avert between 25% and 40% of all RTI-related deaths. 

Furthermore, in low-income and middle-income countries where 93% of RTI-related deaths occur, improving access to trauma care could have substantial benefits.

Explore key findings below, or read the full Series for more detail.


Executive Summary

An estimated 1.35 million people die every year from road traffic injuries (RTIs) and more than 50 million are injured or disabled despite a first decade of action and high-level global attention. 

This 3-paper Series highlights the challenges and opportunities for the second Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021–2030) with the hope that this will be a decade of implementation and delivery that leads to a substantial decline in the risk and global health burden of RTIs.


The political and social contexts of global road safety: challenges for the next decade

Adnan A Hyder, Connie Hoe, Martha Hijar, Margaret Peden


Saving lives through road safety risk factor interventions: global and national estimates

Andres I Vecino-Ortiz, Madhuram Nagarajan, Sarah Elaraby, Deivis Nicolas Guzman-Tordecilla, Nino Paichadze, Adnan A Hyder


Improvement in trauma care for road traffic injuries: an assessment of the effect on mortality in low-income and middle-income countries

Junaid A Razzak, Junaid Bhatti, Kate Wright, Mulinda Nyirenda, Muhammad Ramzan Tahir, Adnan A Hyder



Road safety: more than reducing injuries

The Lancet
June 29, 2022

The UN High-Level Meeting on global road safety (June 30–July 1) aims to put the issue on the highest political agenda. The need is huge. 

The global burden of road traffic injuries is estimated at an annual 1·35 million deaths, and 50 million injuries and disabilities. 

Road traffic injuries are not limited to drivers, but also affect pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. They are also the global leading cause of death for children and young people aged 5–29 years. 

There have been international commitments on road safety: Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.6 calls for a 50% reduction of road traffic injuries by 2030 (they are the only type of injury with an explicit SDG target); SDG target 11.2 demands safe and sustainable transport for all; the UN’s decade of road traffic injury action from 2010 to 2020; and a biennial UN Global Road Safety Week. 

But as the numbers of deaths and injuries show, there is a clear mismatch between the global dialogue on road traffic injuries and action in tackling them.

A three paper Series, led by Adnan Hyder and published on June 29 in The Lancet, brings together the best evidence on preventing and treating road traffic injuries. 

Paper 1 shows that while there has been more political acceptance of the need to tackle these injuries, disappointingly little has changed in many countries over the past 20 years, and that the world is far from achieving the SDG targets. 

Paper 2 shows how the introduction of already-proven interventions, such as curbing speeding and drink driving, and use of helmets and seatbelts or child restraints, could avoid 25–40% of fatal road injuries.

 Such interventions are especially important for low-income and middle-income countries, where more than 90% of the annual death and injury from road traffic incidents occur. 

Paper 3 looks at the care of patients who have injuries resulting from road traffic accidents. 

It documents that, while more research is needed, there are evidence-based policies in emergency care and trauma that can reduce the number of deaths.

Together, the Series gives policy makers a clear plan of action. But it also shows the challenges. 

Understanding, measuring, and reducing road traffic injuries is not limited to the health community, but also falls under the remit of police and law enforcement, urban planners, transport designers, and engineers. 

No one profession has overall responsibility for road traffic injuries, and therefore no single profession is sufficiently accountable. 

The result has been a fractured multisectoral response that has hindered progress and prevented opportunities from being fully realised.

No single factor will provide the solution, but more interdisciplinary and conjoined thinking is needed, especially as patterns of transport change. 

Many governments have promised a switch from petrol to electric cars over the next few decades, and autonomous self-driving vehicles, for freight as well as private use, are being tested and used already in parts of the USA. T

heir consequences for road safety needs to be studied and anticipated widely, with proactive design to minimise road traffic injuries included from the start.

Any vision for addressing road traffic injuries also needs to accommodate the planet’s rapidly changing climate. 

Encouraging less private vehicle ownership and instead incentivising the use of more sustainable public transport as well as more pooled and active transport (such as walking and cycling) has the potential to bring benefits on many fronts. 

Fewer road vehicles of all types will lead to fewer injuries. 

But the steep increase in vehicle and road use, particularly over the past two decades, has also contributed to the rise of air pollution and noise pollution, and to the loss of biodiversity through urban encroachment. 

Reducing the world’s reliance on road transport would bring additional health benefits as diseases associated with poor quality air and sedentary lifestyles — including cancers, respiratory diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and depression — are also reduced. 

A move towards more sustainable forms of transport with fewer carbon emissions would help avoid the adverse impacts of climate change on health.

Road traffic injuries cannot be understood as an isolated issue. 

Health systems, sustainable urban development, local and global leadership, governance, and the future of cities are all aspects of a movement that needs to be galvanised to improve the unnecessary burden of these injuries. 

But, as the Series shows, with a coordinated, multisector approach, road traffic injuries are both treatable and preventable.

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