The annual number of road-related deaths fell slightly to 1.19 million per year, according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report.
That still translates to more than two deaths occurring per minute and over 3,200 per day, according to WHO, with road crashes remaining the leading killer of children and younger adults ages 5-29.
Since 2010, traffic deaths have fallen by 5 percent to 1.19 million annually but still remain a persistent global crisis, the organization said.
“The tragic tally of road crash deaths is heading in the right direction, downward, but nowhere near fast enough,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The carnage on our roads is preventable. We call on all countries to put people rather than cars at the center of their transport systems, and ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”
Among United Nations members, 108 countries reported a drop in road traffic-related deaths between 2010 and 2021, the data found.
Ten countries reduced road traffic deaths by more than 50 percent: Belarus, Brunei Darussalam, Denmark, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Russian Federation, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Thirty-five additional countries made notable progress, reducing deaths by 30-50 percent, WHO said.
The report shows that 28 percent of global road traffic deaths occurred in the WHO South-East Asia Region, 25 percent in the Western Pacific Region, 19 percent in the African Region, 12 percent in the Region of the Americas, 11 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and 5 percent in the European Region.
Nine in 10 deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and fatalities are disproportionately higher the number of vehicles and roads they have are considered.
The risk of death is three times higher in low-income than high-income countries, yet low-income countries have just 1 percent of the world’s motor vehicles, WHO noted.
Fifty-three percent of all road traffic fatalities involve pedestrians (23 percent); riders of powered two- and three-wheelers such as motorcycles (21 percent); cyclists (6 percent); and users of micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters (3 percent).
The report found that deaths among cars and other four-wheeled light vehicle occupants fell slightly to 30 percent of global fatalities.
Pedestrian deaths rose 3 percent to 274,000 between 2010 and 2021 and accounted for 23 percent of global fatalities.
Deaths among cyclists rose by nearly 20 percent to 71,000, accounting for 6 percent of global deaths, the data showed.
Alarmingly, 80 percent of the world’s roads fail to meet pedestrian safety standards and just 0.2 percent have cycle lanes, the report found.
Only a quarter of the countries examined have policies to promote walking, cycling and public transport.
Laws and safety standards were found to be lax in many countries.
Just six countries have laws that meet WHO best practice for all risk factors (speeding, drink–driving, and use of motorcycle helmets, seatbelts and child restraints), while 140 countries (two-thirds of UN Member States) have laws in place for at least one of these risk factors.
Twenty-three countries modified their laws to meet WHO best practice since the initial global status report on road safety in 2018.
Of most concern is that the global motor-vehicle fleet is set to double by 2030.
Yet just 35 countries, according to WHO, legislate on all key vehicle safety features (e.g., advanced braking systems, front- and side-impact protection, etc).
The report also revealed major gaps in ensuring safe road infrastructure, with just 51 countries — a quarter of UN Member States — having laws that require safety inspections that cover all road users.
The WHO Global status report on road Safety 2023 is the fifth in a series measuring progress in reducing road traffic deaths, covering progress between 2010 and 2021, and sets a baseline for efforts to meet the United Nations Decade of Action 2021–2030 target to reduce road traffic deaths by 50 percent by 2030.
This report was produced with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.