Reducing road crashes saves lives and millions of dollars -WHO

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Countries that take simple measures to prevent road traffic collisions not only save countless lives but also make substantial savings that translate into major economic benefits for society as a whole.

This is according to a study published this January in the International Public Health Journal, the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, made available to the Ghana News agency over the weekend.

The study looked at the effect of measures taken in Catalonia, Spain, between 2000 and 2010, including increased police surveillance and use of fines, improving road infrastructures and, from 2006, the introduction of legal measures to fine re-offenders with a penalty point system and to turn severe road violations into criminal offences.

“These measures resulted in a 57% reduction in road deaths between 2000 and 2010 as well as substantial reductions in traffic collisions, hospitalizations and sick leave all of which, in economic terms, translated into about 18,000 million euros (US$ 23 000 million) saved,” the report cited lead author Anna García-Altés, Senior Health Economist at the Catalan Agency for Health Information, Assessment and Quality in Barcelona, Spain.

“The vast majority – 97% – of these cost savings corresponded to indirect costs, including the loss of productivity due to hospitalization, sick leave of the injured and their cares, or death. The remaining 3% covers the direct costs of road traffic collisions, including the cost of specialized care, adaptation to disability and hospital care,” it added.

It said according to the Global status report on road safety: “Injuries from traffic collisions are a major cause of premature death and disability worldwide and they cause around 1.3 million deaths every year and leave between 20 and 50 million people injured, many of them with permanent disabilities and if current trends continue, road crashes – the tenth leading cause of death – are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.”

The report quoted Dr Margaret Peden, a road safety expert at the World Health Organization (WHO) as saying, globally countries spend about 1–3% of their GDP on road traffic injury prevention, and such investment is vital to making their roads safer and this study shows that there is not only a major return on investments in road safety in terms of lives saved and disability avoided, but also substantial cost savings for society as a whole.

It said in reference to a United Nations initiative launched in 2011: “This is an important piece of work, as there are few economic evaluations of road safety policies and interventions. It contributes to a growing body of evidence that can help inform the 100 countries committed to reducing road crashes as part of the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020).”

In 2009, WHO published the Global status report on road safety, the first broad assessment of the road safety situation in 178 countries, using data drawn from a standardized survey.

The results suggest that road safety laws need to be comprehensive and their enforcement should be strengthened in many countries. An update of the report is due out this year. GNA

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