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02 Mar 2018

A World Bank study has found reducing road traffic deaths and injuries could result in substantial long-term income gains for low- and middle-income countries.

The report, The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable, aims to address the incredibly important link between road traffic injuries and economic growth by quantifying how investments in road safety are also an investment in human capital.

Traffic crashes kill more than 1.25 million people around the world each year and this study reveals the huge economic toll, diminished productivity, reduced growth prospects as well as including the human potential being lost in road traffic injuries.

The study finds that countries that do not invest in road safety could miss out on anywhere between 7 and 22 per cent in potential per capita GDP growth over a 24-year period. The report suggests policymakers need to prioritise proven investments in road safety.

The authors believe the results are important for health planners and public health officials, these results make it clear that road traffic injury prevention should be regarded as a key pillar of the health agenda.

According to the report, deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes affect medium- and long-term growth prospects by removing prime age adults from the work force, and reducing productivity due to the burden of injuries.

The greatest share of mortality and long-term disability from road traffic crashes happen amongst the working-age population (between 15 and 64 years old).

Using detailed data on deaths and economic indicators from 135 countries, the study estimates that, on average, a 10 per cent reduction in road traffic deaths raises per capita real GDP by 3.6 per cent over a 24-year horizon.

Over the period 2014-38, halving deaths and injuries due to road traffic could potentially add 22 per cent to GDP per capita in Thailand, 15 per cent in China, 14 per cent in India, 7 per cent in the Philippines and 7 per cent in Tanzania.

“Inspired by disease impact studies, this it is one of the first systematic efforts to estimate both the potential economic benefits and aggregate social welfare gains of reducing road traffic injuries in low and middle income countries,” said José Luis Irigoyen, World Bank Senior Director for Transport and ICT.

“Curbing road traffic injuries would not just be a victory for the transport sector but a significant milestone for global development, with immediate and far-reaching benefits for public health, wellbeing, and economic growth.”

The terrible cost of road traffic deaths is not just a problem for developing countries.  In Australia, the Department of Infrastructure estimates the economic cost of road trauma is $27 billion per year. And, tragically more than 189,000 people have died on Australian roads since records began in 1925.

The AMA recently launched its Position Statement on Road Safety 2018 which called for tougher penalties for drivers who text or use mobile phones while driving, including the loss of licence for up to a year for P-plate and L-plate drivers.

President, Dr Michael Gannon said the Position Statement showed the AMA’s commitment to advocating for improvements in the way Australians drive, the cars they drive, and the roads they drive on.

“On average, three people die on Australian roads every day and 90 are seriously injured – two permanently,” Dr Gannon said.

“That represents about 33,900 adults and children every year who are killed or maimed in avoidable incidents, and thousands more who are affected by the trauma of losing a partner, relative, or friend.

“Community-led road safety initiatives, such as Black Spot programs, and identification of local traffic issues have the potential to reduce road fatalities and injuries.”

A copy of the AMA’s position statement can be found here:

A full copy of the World Bank study, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, can be found here:


Published: 02 Mar 2018