| Roads kill more than malaria: study|
|More people die from traffic accidents than from malaria each year in the developing world, but the issue is being ignored by aid groups and institutions, according to a new report.|
The study, entitled Make Roads Safe: A Decade of Action for Road Safety concludes that US$300 million (A$406 million) spent globally on improving roads, campaigns to raise public awareness, and more traffic police could save 5 million lives between 2010 and 2020.
At present, 1.3 million people die a year from traffic accidents globally, most of them in mid- to low-income countries. That is forecast to climb to 1.9 million by 2020.
By comparison, malaria kills approximately 1 million people a year - 90% in Africa.
"Aid agencies, development NGOs, philanthropic foundations and key international institutions continue to neglect or ignore this rapidly growing problem," the report says.
It estimated the cost of road accidents in the developing world at US$100 billion (A$100 billion) a year - equivalent to all overseas aid from the developed nations of the OECD.
The report calls for a UN campaign to reduce the number of road deaths to under one million by 2020.
"By making small improvements, we can save many lives," says Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa, who attended the report's launch in Rome, Italy. He says factors such as drink driving and the poor condition of many ageing cars are an issue.
"Speeding, for sure, is important ... My job is to go fast, but only on the race track."
Road safety could prove a significant economic boost for poor nations. The report says, every $1 spent on road safety in the developing world would save up to $20 in improved productivity, health and earnings.
It calls for governments attending the first UN meeting on road safety in Moscow this November to back a number of specific measures, such as global rules making helmets for motorcyclists and seatbelts for car users compulsory by 2020.
Other changes, like an increase in the number of traffic police or the introduction of motorbike lanes, could also have a dramatic impact on road fatalities and injuries.
The roads in many poor nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America are packed with old cars, trucks and buses, exported from richer nations when tighter environmental and safety controls made them unroadworthy.
Though the world economic crisis has slowed sales, the number of cars on the road, particularly in developing nations, is forecast to rise steeply in the next decade.
According to the report, road accidents are the main cause of death worldwide for young people between the age of 10 and 24.
In the developing world, it is set to become the leading cause of death in children aged 5 to 14 by 2014, overshadowing malnutrition and infectious diseases, the report says.