Measures needed to reduce road casualties

Study highlights global disparities in improving traffic safety


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International action is needed to help countries with high rates of traffic injuries and deaths to reduce the number of accidents, and save lives, a KAIMRC researcher says. Data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study shows that there were more than 54 million injuries and around 1.25 million deaths on roads around the world in 2017.

Although injuries have become more frequent among pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and passengers since 1990, the number of resulting deaths has fallen. However, only the wealthiest states have managed to reduce the numbers of people hurt on roads in the last 30 years. People in the least developed countries are, on average, about three times more likely to die in traffic than those in the most developed territories.

There was an average of 7.5 road deaths per 100,000 people, standardized by age, in countries in the most developed fifth of the world in 2017, down 56% since 1990. This compared with 20.6 per 100,000 in the least developed fifth of countries, where the rate fell by only 19%. 

Suliman Alghnam, head of the Population Health Research department at KAIMRC, and a co-author of the study, called for the United Nations and World Health Organization to help developing countries introduce measures that have been shown to work in developed countries. “Overall, things are improving, however in some countries we have seen an increase in accidents and mortality,” said Alghnam. “We need efforts on a global scale to reduce the disparities. That means prevention programmes in countries with the highest rates, including increased seat belt enforcement, improving patient transfer to hospitals and more trauma centres.”

In Saudi Arabia, there were 1,045 age-standardized road injuries per 100,000 people in 2017. This compares with a global rate of 692 per 100,000 people and was the third highest rate in the North Africa and Middle East region, where the average was 603 per 100,000. The age-standardized death rate from road injuries in the Kingdom was 36.7 per 100,000 people, compared to a global average of 15.8 per 100,000. Only nine other countries in the world had higher mortality rates. 

Researchers say that speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and cell phone use while driving are key reasons for Saudi Arabia’s higher rates of road injuries and related deaths.  In a 2018 study, Alghnam concluded that the installation of cameras and a system of automatic penalties around Riyadh more than doubled compliance with seat belt laws and significantly cut mobile phone use while driving.


  1. James, S. L., et al. Morbidity and mortality from road injuries: results from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Injury Prevention  26, 1–11 (2020). | article

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