10 facts on global road safety
Updated December 2018
About 1.35 million people die each year on the world's roads and between 20 and 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries. Road traffic crashes are a major cause of death among all age groups and the leading cause of death among children aged 5-14 and young adults aged 15–29 years.
This fact file presents data from WHO's most recent Global health estimates and the Global status report on road safety, published in 2018. The reports show that road traffic injuries remain an important public health problem. To reduce the number of road traffic deaths and injuries, a holistic framework such as the Safe System approach needs to be adopted to ensure a safe transport system for all road users.
Fact 1: Road traffic injuries are a global public health problemEvery year, there are approximately 1.35 million road traffic deaths worldwide. 93% of these road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries which only have 59% of the world’s registered vehicles.
Fact 2: Vulnerable road users account for 54% of all road traffic deaths globallyPedestrians, cyclists, and riders of motorized 2- and 3-wheelers and their passengers are collectively known as "vulnerable road users" and account for half of all road traffic deaths around the world. A higher proportion of vulnerable road users die in low-income countries than in high-income countries.
Fact 3: Controlling speed reduces road traffic injuriesAs average speed increases, so too does the likelihood of having a road traffic crash and the severity of the consequences should a crash occur. An increase of 1 km/h in mean vehicle speed results in an increase of 3% in the incidence of crashes resulting in injury and an increase of 4–5% in the incidence of fatal crashes.
Only 46 countries, representing 3 billion people, have laws that meet best practice on urban speed. This means having a national urban maximum speed limit of no more than 50 km/h and allowing local authorities to modify this limit when necessary, to ensure safe speeds locally.
Fact 4: Drinking and driving increases the risk of a crashDrinking and driving increases the risk of a crash dramatically above a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 g/dl. WHO recommends a BAC of ≤0.05 g/dl for the general driving population, and a limit of ≤ 0.02 g/dl for young and novice drivers.
Only 45 countries, representing 2.3 billion people, have national drink–driving laws that meet best practice.
Fact 5: Wearing a good-quality helmet can reduce the risk of death from a road traffic crashWearing a good-quality helmet can reduce the risk of death by 40% and severe injury by approximately 70%. Only 49 countries, representing 2.7 billion people, have motorcycle helmet laws that meet best practice: this means making sure the law applies to all drivers and passengers, all roads and engine types, requires the helmet to be fastened and makes reference to a particular helmet standard.
Fact 6: Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of death among front-seat and rear-seat passengersWearing a seat-belt can reduce fatal and non-fatal injuries among front seat occupants by 45-50% and rear-seat car occupants by 25–75%. 105 countries, representing 5.3 billion people, have seat-belt laws that cover both front and rear seat occupants, in line with best practice.
Fact 7: The use of appropriate child restraints considerably reduces the risk of serious injury to childrenPlacing children in child restraints reduces the risk of serious injury by up to 80% compared to children restrained only by seat-belts. Further, children in booster seats have a 77% reduced risk of being injured in a crash compared to unrestrained children.
Only 33 countries, representing 652 million people, have a child restraint law that meets best practice. Best practice laws require laws that place restrictions on children sitting in the front seat, require that children use child restraints until at least 10 years of age or 135 cm in height, and make reference to a standard.