Education And Debate

The neglected epidemic: road traffic injuries in developing countries

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7346.1139 (Published 11 May 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1139
  1. Vinand M Nantulya (vmnantul@hsph.harvard.edu), senior research scientist, international health,
  2. Michael R Reich, Taro Takemi professor of international health policy
  1. Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  1. Correspondence to: V M Nantulya

    Road traffic injuries are a major cause of death and disability globally, with a disproportionate number occurring in developing countries. 1 2 Road traffic injuries are currently ranked ninth globally among the leading causes of disability adjusted life years lost, and the ranking is projected to rise to third by 2020.1 In 1998, developing countries accounted for more than 85% of all deaths due to road traffic crashes globally and for 96% of all children killed.2 Moreover, about 90% of the disability adjusted life years lost worldwide due to road traffic injuries occur in developing countries.1 The problem is increasing at a fast rate in developing countries due to rapid motorisation and other factors (fig 1).3 However, public policy responses to this epidemic have been muted at national and international levels. Policy makers need to recognise this growing problem as a public health crisis and design appropriate policy responses.

    Summary points

    Injury and deaths due to road traffic crashes are a major public health problem in developing countries

    More than 85% of all deaths and 90% of disability adjusted life years lost from road traffic injuries occur in developing countries

    Among children aged 0-4 and 5-14 years, the number of fatalities per 100 000 population in low income countries was about six times greater than in high income countries in 1998

    The highest burden of injuries and fatalities is borne disproportionately by poor people in developing countries, as pedestrians, passengers of buses and minibuses, and cyclists

    Fig 1

    Trends in fatalities due to road traffic injuries for different regions of the world, 1980-95. Data from Transport Research Laboratory3

    Vulnerable population groups

    Road traffic injuries in developing countries particularly affect the productive (working) age group (15-44 years) and children. (A developing country is defined as a country that has an annual per …

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