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Benefits of road safety - WHO report

Friday January 4th, 2013

Taking simple measures to cut road crashes not only saves lives, but also brings about major economic benefits, according to a major international study.

A study, published yesterday in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, said investing in safer roads and road accident prevention made economic sense.

Lead author Anna García-Altés, senior health economist at the Catalan Agency for Health Information, Assessment and Quality in Barcelona, Spain, made the claims after examining the effect of measures taken in Catalonia, Spain, between 2000 and 2010.

The region increased police surveillance and fines, improved road infrastructures and, from 2006, introduced legal measures to fine re-offenders with a penalty point system and turned severe road violations into criminal offences.

The measures resulted in a 57 per cent reduction in road deaths between 2000 and 2010 as well as substantial reductions in traffic collisions, hospitalisations and sick leave which, in economic terms, translated into savings of about 18,000 million euros, she said.

“The vast majority – 97 per cent – of these cost savings corresponded to indirect costs, including the loss of productivity due to hospitalisation, sick leave of the injured and their carers, or death,” García-Altés said. “The remaining three per cent covers the direct costs of road traffic collisions, including the cost of specialised care, adaptation to disability and hospital care.”

Traffic accidents cause about 1.3 million deaths every year and leave between 20 and 50 million people injured, many of them with permanent disabilities, according to The Global status report on road safety, a study published by WHO in 2009.

If current trends continue, road crashes – the tenth leading cause of death –are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

Dr Margaret Peden, a road safety expert at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said that countries across the globe spent between one and three per cent of their GDP on road traffic injury prevention.

“This study shows that there is not only a major return on investments in road safety in terms of lives saved and disability avoided, but also substantial cost savings for society as a whole,” she said.

“This is an important piece of work, as there are few economic evaluations of road safety policies and interventions.”

She said the findings will contribute to a growing body of evidence that can help to inform the 100 countries that have already committed to reducing road crashes as part of the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020), which was launched by the United Nations in 2011.

The Global status report on road safety is the first broad assessment of the road safety situation in 178 countries, using data drawn from a standardised survey. An update of the report is due out this year.

Bulletin of the World Health Organization January 2013

Tags: A&E | Europe | General Health | World Health

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