A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that road traffic deaths continue to rise, with an annual 1.35 million fatalities globally.

The WHO Global status report on road safety 2018 says that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years.

“These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “There is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions. This report is a call for governments and partners to take much greater action to implement these measures.”

The WHO Global status report on road safety 2018 suggests that, despite an increase in the overall number of deaths, the rates of death relative to the size of the world population have stabilized in recent years.

“Road safety is an issue that does not receive anywhere near the attention it deserves – and it really is one of our great opportunities to save lives around the world,” said Michael R Bloomberg, Founder and CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “We know which interventions work. Strong policies and enforcement, smart road design, and powerful public awareness campaigns can save millions of lives over the coming decades.”

The report reveals that, where progress has been made, this can largely be attributed to better legislation around key risks such as speeding, drinking and driving, and increased use of seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints. Other factors include safer infrastructure like sidewalks and dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control and advanced braking; and enhanced post-crash care.

According to the report, these measures have contributed to reductions in road traffic deaths in 48 middle- and high-income countries. However, not one low-income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths, in large part because these measures are lacking.

The risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. The highest rate is in Africa (26.6 per 100,000 population) and lowest in Europe (9.3 per 100,000 population). Since the previous edition of the report, three regions of the world have reported a decline in road traffic death rates: Americas, Europe and the Western Pacific.

Globally, pedestrians and cyclists account for 26 percent of all road traffic deaths. In Africa, this figure increases to 44 percent. Motorcycle riders and passengers account for 28 percent of all road traffic deaths, increasing to 43 percent in South-East Asia and 36 percent in the Western Pacific.

View the WHO Global status report on road safety 2018.