A new report on global traffic safety says the number of deaths continues to rise overall, reaching to 1.35 million in 2016 and falling behind targets to cut the number of fatalities in half by 2020.
The report from the World Health Organization (WHO) also found that roads and streets in the United States remain twice as dangerous as those in Canada and more than four times as dangerous as in many other Group of Seven nations. The agency said traffic crashes — which take the largest toll on the most-vulnerable users of transportation systems, namely pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists — also remain the leading cause of death for children and young adults, especially those who are male.
But the group also said in the report released Friday that the world’s per capita rate of traffic deaths has stabilized, owing to some progress in wealthier, more developed countries. The agency attributes those gains to better vehicle design, greater access to emergency medical care and stricter safety laws addressing issues such as drunken driving and the use of seat belts and child restraints.
Since the agency’s report in 2015, an additional 22 countries enacted laws addressing risks such as speeding, drunken driving and the mandatory use of helmets for motorcyclists, the report says. Less progress has been made on limiting speeds. While 48 middle- and high-income countries achieved reductions in traffic deaths from 2013 to 2016, 104 other countries reported increases, the agency said.
The United States has nearly twice Canada’s per capita crash rate, with 12.4 traffic deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.8 per 100,000 in Canada. While the countries have similar national standards and statistics on drunken driving, Canada also has a nationwide law requiring seat belts for front- and rear-seat passengers and — for motorcycle riders — helmets, while the United States does not. Seat-belt compliance is at 95 percent in Canada, compared with 90 percent in the United States, and 98 percent of Canadian motorcyclists wear helmets, compared with 68 percent in the United States.
Natalie Draisin, North American director of the FIA Foundation, called for a greater focus on stronger safety initiatives to protect children, such as through the Vision Zero for Youth program.
“More 5-24-year-olds die on our roads, than from any other cause,” Draisin said in a statement. “One school commits to reaching zero fatalities among youth through measurable safety initiatives like lower speeds, where students walk or cycle school. Then one city commits, one state commits. When you protect youth, you protect everyone else.”
--This posting has been updated to correct Draisin’s organization.