Speed Causes 1 in 3 Road Traffic Fatalities: WHO

Road traffic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Trinn Suwannapha / World Bank
Road traffic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Trinn Suwannapha / World Bank

Managing speed, a new report from WHO, suggests that excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to 1 in 3 road traffic fatalities worldwide.

Measures to address speed prevent road traffic deaths and injuries, make populations healthier, and cities more sustainable, the report suggests.

Around 1.25 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Studies indicate that typically 40–50% of drivers go over posted speed limits. Drivers who are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes.

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Road traffic crashes remain the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years. They are estimated to cost countries from 3–5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.

Yet, according to the report, only 47 countries of the world follow good practice on one of the main speed management measures, namely implementing an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less and allowing local authorities to reduce these limits further on roads around schools, residences and businesses.

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“Speed is at the core of the global road traffic injury problem,” notes WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “If countries were to address just this key risk, they would soon reap the rewards of safer roads, both in terms of lives saved and increases in walking and cycling, with profound and lasting effects on health.”

Managing speed was released in advance of the Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, 8–14 May 2017. The week and its related campaign “Save Lives: #SlowDown” draw attention to the dangers of speed and the measures which should be put in place to address this leading risk for road traffic deaths and injuries.

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Rakesh Raman