East Africa has some of the worst rates of road traffic accidents in the world, according to a new report.
The World Health Organisation says that Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda with respectively 29.1, 32.9 and 32.1 deaths per 100,000 people, are amongst the worst 10 performers — in terms of fatalities in Africa — and among the worst 20 worldwide. Uganda’s rate is a little better at 27.4.
The report, “the Global Status on Road Safety,” says that around 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes, despite improvements in road safety.
The report also found that some vehicles sold in 80 per cent of all countries worldwide fail to meet basic safety standards, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where nearly 50 per cent of the 67 million new passenger cars were produced in 2014.
Moreover, road accidents are now the leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds globally.
Forty of the 50 countries with the highest road-death rates across all ages are in Africa. Traffic accidents now kill more people than malaria in many African countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia.
Africa’s roads are the world’s deadliest for a multitude of reasons including lax enforcement of traffic rules, often due to corruption, poor road conditions, lack of pedestrian infrastructure such as pavements and crossings, and weak levels of accident and emergency care.
The report also says that no African country except South Africa meets any of the UN’s seven main vehicle safety standards.
“Road traffic fatalities take an unacceptable toll – particularly on poor people in poor countries,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.
However, the number of road traffic deaths is stabilising even though the number of motor vehicles worldwide has increased rapidly, as has the global population. In the last three years, 79 countries have seen a decrease in the absolute number of fatalities while 68 countries have seen an increase.
Countries that have had the most success in reducing the number of road traffic deaths have achieved this by improving legislation, enforcement, and making roads and vehicles safer.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” adds Dr Chan. “The report shows that road safety strategies are saving lives. But it also tells us that the pace of change is too slow.”
The WHO report highlights that road users around the world are unequally protected. The risk of dying in a road traffic crash still depends, in great part, on where people live and how they move around.
A big gap still separates high-income countries from low- and middle-income ones where 90 pc of road traffic deaths occur in spite of having just 54 pc of the world’s vehicles. Europe, in particular the region’s wealthier countries, has the lowest death rates per capita; Africa the highest, with the exception of Thailand and Iran.
The good news, however, is that more countries are taking action to make roads safer. In the last three years, 17 countries have aligned at least one of their laws with best practice on seat-belts, drink–driving, speed, motorcycle helmet or child restraints.
The report reveals that globally:
* 105 countries have good seat-belt laws that apply to all occupants;
* 47 countries have good speed laws defining a national urban maximum speed limit of 50 km/h and empowering local authorities to further reduce speed limits;
* 34 countries have a good drink–driving law with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of less than or equal to 0.05 g/dl as well as lower limits of less than or equal to 0.02 g/dl for young and novice drivers.