Intended for healthcare professionals


Road traffic deaths in the Middle East: call for action

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 19 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:860
  1. Emily Christensen-Rand, MPH, MBA candidate (echriste{at},
  2. Adnan A Hyder, assistant professor, Department of International Health,
  3. Timothy Baker, professor, Department of International Health
  1. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N Wolfe Street, Suite E-8132, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  2. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N Wolfe Street, Suite E-8132, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

    EDITOR—One of the leading causes of death and disability in the Middle East is road traffic injuries. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020 road traffic injuries will be the third leading cause of disability adjusted years of life lost worldwide.1 Our analysis of the International Road Federation's world road statistics found that five countries in the Middle East are among the highest road traffic death rates in the world.2 The table shows that the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait all had more than 18 deaths per 100 000 people in 2000.

    Death rates from road traffic injuries for countries in the Middle East by income2

    View this table:

    Despite the seriousness of this problem, the full impact—morbidity, mortality, and disability—of road traffic injury in the Middle East is inadequately measured. Bahrain and Israel are the only countries in the Middle East to have reported road traffic injury deaths by age to WHO.4 Although it has the lowest rates in the region, Bahrain has twice the road death rates of two other city states: Hong Kong and Singapore.2 Calculations based on data from WHO's statistical information system found that in Bahrain, more years of potential life are lost from injury than from heart disease, cancer, and infection combined.3

    Death rates are higher in countries with more cars per 100 000 people.2 As the countries of the Middle East motorise, their death rates will inevitably rise. Investigators in Middle Eastern countries should identify interventions to lower the death toll from traffic fatalities.5 Above all, public health officials, road traffic designers, legislators, and the police should implement proved effective measures to lower the terrible toll of motor vehicle fatalities in the Middle East.


    • Competing interests None declared.


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