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Road Traffic Injuries and Deaths—A Global Problem

Crowded international streetLearn tips to protect yourself and others from road traffic injuries when traveling abroad.

Road traffic crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of death for healthy U.S. citizens residing or traveling abroad. Whether you're on the road, at home, or abroad, know the risks, get the facts, and take steps to protect your safety.

The Reality Around the World

Throughout the world, roads are shared by cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, pedestrians, animals, taxis and other categories of travelers. Travel made possible by motor vehicles supports economic and social development in many countries. Yet each year, these vehicles are involved in crashes that are responsible for millions of deaths and injuries.

Consider the following:

  • Each year, 1.25 million people are killed on roadways around the world.
  • Each day, an estimated 3,400 people are killed globally in road traffic crashes involving cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, or pedestrians. Half of those people killed in crashes globally are pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists.
  • Road traffic injuries are estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death globally and the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29.
  • Current trends show that by 2030, road traffic injuries will become the seventh leading cause of death globally.
  • Road traffic injuries place a huge economic burden on low- and middle-income countries and are estimated to cost US $518 billion globally and US $65 billion in low-income and middle-income countries, exceeding the total amount received in development assistance.

	Photo: Commuters on a busy street.Steps for Safety At Home and Abroad

Motor vehicle crashes are a public health concern both abroad and in the United States. These injuries and deaths are preventable. Whether you are a driver, passenger, cyclist, or pedestrian, take the following steps to stay safe on the road:

  • Use a seat belt in every seat, on every trip, no matter how short.
  • Make sure children are always properly buckled in the back seat in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
  • Choose not to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and help others do the same.
  • Obey speed limits.
  • Drive without distractions (such as using a cell phone or texting).
  • Be alert when crossing streets, especially in countries where motorists drive on the left side of the road.
  • Ride only in marked taxis and try to ride in those that have seat belts.
  • Avoid riding in overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or minivans.
  • Check the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) website for driving hazards or risks by country.

Global Road Safety and CDC

The CDC's Injury Center is working to reduce the burden of road traffic injuries in low- and middle-income countries where road traffic injuries are highest, and to provide direct technical assistance to governmental and non-governmental organizations to:

  • Build capacity for road traffic injury data analysis.
  • Evaluate surveillance systems and road safety programs.
  • Use data for program planning.
  • Implement integrated road traffic injury surveillance systems.

CDC supports the UN Decade of Action and subscribes to the Global Decade of Action Plan developed by the UNRSC and the WHO which aims to:

  • Build road safety management capacity.
  • Improve the safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks.
  • Further develop the safety of vehicles.
  • Enhance the behavior of road users.
  • Improve post-crash care.

Safety 2016

The World Injury Conference, held in September 2016, produced a key outcome: The Tampere Declaration. The declaration linked injuries and violence-related targets in the newly adopted UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals; including to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020. The Tampere Declaration expresses global commitment for stronger injury and violence prevention. It encourages integrating injury and violence prevention into other health and safety advocacy platforms. It also expresses the need to engage civil society groups, foundations, and community-based organizations to reduce the impact of injuries and violence on their nations and communities.

  • Page last reviewed: November 23, 2016
  • Page last updated: November 23, 2016
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