Despite notable progress, road safety remains urgent global issue
The latest WHO global status report on road safety 2023 was launched today in Geneva showing that the annual number of road traffic deaths fell slightly to 1.19 million per year. Yet with more than two deaths occurring per minute and over 3200 per day, road traffic crashes remain the leading killer of children and youth aged 5–29 years.
Among UN Member States, 108 countries reported a drop in road traffic-related deaths between 2010 and 2021. Ten countries succeeded in reducing road traffic deaths by over 50%, showing that a 50% reduction in a decade is possible. Thirty-five more countries made notable progress, reducing deaths by 30% to 50%.
“The tragic tally of road crash deaths is heading in the right direction, downwards, but nowhere near fast enough,” says WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The carnage on our roads is preventable. We call on all countries to put people rather than cars at the centre of their transport systems, and ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”
The report shows that nine in 10 deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and fatalities in these countries are disproportionately higher when set against the number of vehicles and roads they have. The risk of death is 3 times higher in low-income than high-income countries, yet low-income countries have just 1% of the world’s motor vehicles.
Fifty-three per cent of all road traffic fatalities are vulnerable road users including: pedestrians (23%); riders of powered two- and three-wheelers (21%); cyclists (6%); and users of micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters (3%). These figures represent a 3% increase in pedestrian deaths and 20% increase in cyclist deaths between 2010 and 2021. Meanwhile, research indicates that 80% of the world’s roads fail to meet pedestrian safety standards and just 0.2% have cycle lanes, leaving these road users dangerously exposed.
The report reveals an alarming lack of progress in advancing laws and safety standards. Urgent action is needed. The decline in deaths falls far short of what is needed to halve road deaths by 2030. Yet this report shows that it can done if political will and the right measures are in place.
The safe systems approach is the best way to save lives and secure a sustainable future. This puts people and safety first, and some of the greatest gains were made where this approach was applied. The WHO European Region saw the largest drop in fatalities, at 36%, and holds the most countries that adopted laws and regulations that align with this approach. The Western Pacific Region, which includes a number of countries adopting aspects of the safe system, saw a 15% drop in deaths.
The safe system calls for a safe, efficient and sustainable mix of transport types, including mass public transport, while ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users. This is right at the heart of the Global Plan for Decade of Action for Road Safety, which charts the way ahead.
And everyone has a role to play in making safe, green and efficient mobility a reality. Governments must lead strategies that are rooted in good data, backed by strong laws and funds, and include all relevant sectors. Business must put safety at the core of their value chains. Academia and civil society must generate evidence and hold leaders to account. Youth can demand action and help take it.
The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023 was produced with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Since 2007, Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $500 million to support road safety interventions in low- and middle- income countries and cities across the world.
2023 Global Status Report on Road Safety
The 2023 Global Status Report on Road Safety was released by the World Health Organisation in December 2023. It shows that, since 2010, road traffic deaths have fallen. Yet, road crashes remain a persistent global health crisis, with pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users facing an acute and rising risk of death.