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Wheels of progress killing Africa

2013-03-15 10:02

TAKING A GRIM TOLL: South Africa contributes 14 000 people to the African road-death toll. Action is needed across Africa to reduce this appalling figure.

GENEVA, Switzerland - Africa in particular is losing the fight against road accidents which kill more than a million people each year worldwide.

South Africa weighs in with an official 14 000 dead a year - some sources put the figure as high as 20 000 through inaccurate data recording.

A UN World Health Organisation report has called for stricter laws to help reverse the trend; only 28 nations have adequate road rules to cover road safety.

Etienne Krug, who heads the WHO's department of violence and injury prevention, said ahead: "We are not all equal before road traffic crashes."


He cautioned that road safety seemed to be deteriorating in about half of the world's nations. The WHO 'Global status report on road safety 2013' showed that rapidly motorising middle-income countries, especially in Africa and the Middle East, contributed the most road deaths.

This was linked to the failure of legislation, enforcement and the protection of so-called "vulnerable road users" such as pedestrians and bicyclists to keep up with growing vehicle use.

In Africa, 24 of every 100 000 people who die do so in traffic accidents. Europe has 10.3/100 000 - the lowest death toll. South Africa officially contributes 14 000 deaths to the total each year.

Krug also told reporters in Geneva: "In Africa we see economic development, new roads, cars being imported and new drivers taking to the roads, and this is not matched with the necessary safety measures."

He described situations in numerous African villages where dirt roads were replaced by Tarmac and suddenly "cars are driving four or five times faster through the village, but nothing is done to facilitate walking (and) there is no easy way to cross it in a safe way, so deaths and injuries go up".

According to the 318-page report, which includes data from 182 countries accounting for about 99% of Earth's population, some 1.24-million people die globally in road accidents each year and as many as 50-million are injured.

Traffic accidents are thus the eighth-leading cause of death worldwide and the top cause among people aged 15 to 29. Without action, they are set to become the fifth-leading cause of death among all age groups by 2030, the report warned.

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