Road Safety and Development

Why reducing road fatalities is crucial for increasing in life-expectancy in many low-income countries

Road traffic injuries are a global public health problem. Worldwide, about 1.35 million people are killed and about 50 million are injured on the roads every year. This accounts for almost a quarter of all injury and violence-related deaths globally. Road traffic injuries are among the top 10 primary causes of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost and are now the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years. The high prevalence of injuries and death on the roads therefore place a high socio-economic burden in the most affected countries. In many ways road traffic injuries are a lesser societal challenge because there is considerable knowledge regarding road safety interventions. However, despite the fact that there is considerable knowledge regarding road safety interventions and many countries have managed to improve road safety, the mortality remains unacceptably high in many countries of the world, mostly developing countries.

In our research project "Road Safety in South Africa" the ultimate objective is to save lives and reduce road traffic injury rates. Hence, our research priorities are: 1. Improving children’s knowledge on road safety; 2. Achieving lasting behavioural changes; and 3. Understanding the relationship between knowledge, behavioural changes and the built environment. We understand road safety as a public health challenge, where traffic crashes are not accidents, they’re preventable and interventions can work. South Africa has a much higher death rate on the roads (25.9) and road traffic fatalities are among the top ten leading causes of death in South Africa, most victims are under the age of 30, with considerable impact on life expectancy. The poor face much higher risks, e.g. on their way to school or to work they have to walk across fast multi-lane roads without safe crossing points, making them particularly vulnerable road users.

Now published: De Abreu, L., Hoeffler, A. (2021). Safer spaces: The impact of a reduction in road fatalities on the life expectancy of South Africans. Accident Analysis and Prevention(157)