WHO report highlights the risk to expats of road accidents

by Ray Clancy on August 13, 2013

WHO report highlights the risk to expats of road accidents

WHO report highlights the risk to expats of road accidents

Road accidents are one of the major risks for expats and are one of the top five causes of medical repatriation, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation. It highlights the five key risk factors for road accidents as drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints. The report points out that that only one in seven countries has comprehensive laws addressing all five key risk factors and middle income countries have been hardest hit by rising road traffic accidents.

Those with the worst road safety records include Brazil, India, and China and in these developing countries rapid access to healthcare can be a challenge. These are nations with increasing expats populations and it means that expats should make sure their health insurance covers medical evacuation. The WHO report says that the pace of legislative change needs to rapidly accelerate if the number of deaths from road traffic crashes is to be substantially reduced. ‘Political will is needed at the highest level of government to ensure appropriate road safety legislation and stringent enforcement of laws by which we all need to abide,’ said WHO director general Margaret Chan.

‘If this cannot be ensured, families and communities will continue to grieve, and health systems will continue to bear the brunt of injury and disability due to road traffic crashes,’ she added.

The report serves as a strong warning to governments that more needs to be done to protect all those who use the roads, according to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg whose foundation funded the report. ‘Road traffic fatalities and injuries are preventable. This report is an important next step in the effort to also keep pedestrians, cyclists and motorists safe on the world’s roads. It demonstrates that progress is being made, but we still have a long way to go,’ he said.

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Several groups are particularly at risk of dying in a road traffic crash. Some 59% of those who are killed in road traffic crashes are between the ages of 15 and 44 years, and 77% are male. Pedestrians and cyclists constitute 27% of all road deaths. In some countries this figure is higher than 75%, demonstrating decades of neglect of the needs of these road users in current transport policies, in favour of motorised transport.

The risk of dying as a result of a road traffic injury is highest in the WHO African Region at 24.1 per 100,000 people and lowest in the WHO European Region at 10.3 per 100,000 people. The report is the second in a series analysing to what extent countries are implementing a number of effective road safety measures. It highlights the importance of issues such as vehicle safety standards, road infrastructure inspections, policies on walking and cycling and aspects of pre-hospital care systems. It also indicates that countries should have a national strategy which sets measurable targets to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads.

The conclusion is that road traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 29. More than a million people die each year on the world’s roads, and the cost of dealing with the consequences of these road traffic crashes runs to billions of dollars. Current trends suggest that by 2030 road traffic deaths will become the fifth leading cause of death unless urgent action is taken.

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