Implications of Road Safety in National Productivity and Human Development in Asia
Fatalities and injuries due to road transport have an enormous impact on the well-being of people, economy and productivity. Therefore Road Safety is one of the core elements of a sustainable transport system as is reflected in the 2013 Bali Declaration, which introduced the “Vision Three Zeros ‐ Zero Congestion, Zero Pollution, and Zero Accidents”.
The latest WHO and IMHE-World Bank publications estimate that yearly around 1.3 million deaths due to road accidents occur worldwide. Almost 80 million are injured of which more than 9 million would need hospital admissions with often long-term disabilities as a consequence. If also indirect deaths caused by air pollution from motorized transport are included the total number of deaths exceeds 1.5 million corresponding to over 4000 lost lives per day.
The objectives of this paper are to:
Review and summarize the most recent and relevant information on the global road safety problem and its impact on productivity. The focus is on the Asian EST region currently consisting of 24 countries including the two most populated areas in the world - China and India.
Present accident and injury prevention strategies based on experience and effectiveness in developed countries and their potential for implementation in Asia.
Discuss the way forward by summarizing the most relevant opportunities to prevent road fatalities and injuries in the Asian EST region and thus how road safety can contribute to achieve the Bali Vision- Zero Accidents.
The size of the road safety problem in the 24 Asian EST is evident from several numbers: the total number of estimated deaths in the region due to road accidents is 750,000 per year based on WHO and IMHE/World Bank estimates. The total number of injuries is more than 50 million (of which 12% are hospital admissions), corresponding to 2/3 of all injuries worldwide, while 56% of the world’s population lives in the 24 Asian EST countries. The number of indirect deaths due to air pollution caused by motorized transport is almost 100,000 with a relatively large share from India. The death rate (fatalities per 100,000 population) is in many of the Asian EST countries more than twice as high as in Europe.
Vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists combined) are at particular risk. They constitute 60% of the deaths due to road accidents in Asian EST countries and in many of the low and middle income countries in this region this percentage is even higher. The total costs of injuries in the Asian EST countries, calculated as a loss to the economy, is estimated to 735 billion US$ or 3.3% of GDP. In 8 countries (Bangladesh Bhutan, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam) it is even more than 4% of the GDP. In many of the Asian EST low and middle income countries the yearly number of fatalities and injuries is still further increasing while in several high income countries these numbers are decreasing.
One problem seen in many countries is the large underreporting in the official country statistics which are usually based on police data. The WHO and IMHE/World Bank estimates for the numbers of fatalities in the Asian EST region are more than twice the values from the official data from the respective countries. This large national underreporting stresses the need for reliable accident data. These are necessary to understand the causes of accidents, to determine evidence based intervention strategies and also for monitoring the success of these interventions. On the other hand lack of good accident data is not an excuse not to implement good practices based on experiences from other countries.