Road safety challenges demand behavioral change

The Allianz Center for Technology’s latest report spells out the components of a culture of safety to reduce global accident risks.
A girl rides on the back of a motorcycle at a busy street in downtown Hanoi./ Credits: Reuters
Every six seconds, someone, somewhere becomes the victim of a traffic accident. He or she is most likely to be an African or Asian pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist, statistically the most vulnerable road users.

The annual toll taken by the world’s roads is 1.2 million dead and 50 million injured, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which predicts that by 2030 road traffic accidents will be the fifth biggest killer worldwide. Amongst those aged 15 to 29, they are already the leading cause of death.

This epidemic has been paid too little attention for too long, argues the Allianz Risk Pulse report on Mobility and Traffic Safety, published by the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT) today.

The Risk Pulse laments the tragic fact that so many of these accidents could be avoided, and that income seems to be a major factor.

“The lower the per capita income the higher is the risk of becoming a victim to a traffic accident – we need to stop this worrying trend. Road safety must not be a question of income”, says Christoph Lauterwasser, CEO of Allianz Center for Technology (AZT).
The report highlights several trends:

- The highest death rates are in Africa, the Middle East and Arab countries. Almost all of the 20 nations with the highest numbers of deaths per head of population are in Africa or the Middle East.

- While fatalities have increased by a third from 2000 to 2010 in African and Asian countries, during the same period Europe and the Americas experienced decreases, particularly in EU member states.

- Statistically, the “death risk per mileage travelled” is highest for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. For example, in Indonesia 61 percent of traffic deaths are of 2- and 3-wheeler drivers or passengers. Income is therefore “a major factor in becoming a victim to a traffic accident.”

- Although fatality rates correlate with poverty rates, economic growth does not necessarily deliver better road safety. The World Bank predicts large increases in accident rates and fatalities in prospering economies like India and China as motorized traffic increases.
The key for global road safety is to bridge that gap between rapid economic growth and the reduced road deaths achieved by EU states like Germany, for example.

What’s required is “a new safety culture” argues AZT. The risk experts call for legal and social frameworks for road safety to be strengthened. Behavioral change, on the part of all road users, can be encouraged through two types of safety measures: passive and active.

Passive measures include the wearing of helmets and seatbelts. Active measures include stricter regulations for the granting of driving licences, laws combating drinking and driving, the construction of safer streets, as well as education campaigns.

“The goal of reducing the world’s road accidents can be achieved only by a joint effort to optimize operating liability, legal certainty and the willingness of the drivers to rethink their behaviour”, says Christoph Lauterwasser.

To access the full Risk Pulse report click here.

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