Road Safety is a Public Health Issue

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
August 3, 2011

Motor vehicle accidents, (MVA) occur daily across the globe. These accidents can result in trauma to those involved and can result in possible injury and death. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO), (1) it is estimated that approximately 3500 people die every day as a result of road accidents and tens of millions injured. Furthermore, it has been concluded that MVAs account for approximately 1.21 million deaths per year and is listed as the tenth highest cause of death worldwide in WHO’s list of top ten causes of death worldwide (2). It can be clearly understood from these statistics, that road accidents are a major strain on both the healthcare system as well as the society of a country, not to mention the economic stability of a county as it is estimated that road traffic injuries are believed to have cost low and middle income countries approximately 1-2% of their Gross National Product (3).

A motor vehicle is defined as any mechanically or electrically powered device not operated on rails, and includes cars, buses, trucks, vans, motorcycles, and off-road vehicles(4) whereas a traffic accident is defined as any vehicle accident occurring on a public road or highway and includes vehicle accidents where the place of occurrence is unspecified. In the Americas during 1997-2000, mortality from all land transport accidents was the tenth leading cause of death in the general population, the 6th leading cause in males with an annual average of registered deaths of 77,820 and the 16th in females, with 24,702 deaths (5). The importance of the burden of death from land transport accidents, especially among younger age groups, is further noted in that they are the 2nd leading cause of potential years of life lost (YPLL) to 75 years of age overall (annual average of 4.2 million years) and in the male population (annual average of 3.2 million years) and 5th among females (annual average of 1.0 million years) over the same period. In addition, it was noted that the majority of fatal casualties involved in road accidents were within the 15-44 age bracket- the range which most family breadwinners fall into (3).


  1. World Health Organization. Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability: Road Traffic Injuries. Available at
  2. World Health Organization. The 10 leading causes of death by broad income group (2008). Available at :
  3. World Health Organization. World report on road traffic injury prevention 2004.
  4. Centres for Disease Control. Deaths: Final Data for 2009
  5. Pan American Health Organization, Technical Information System, Area of Health Analysis and Information Systems; 2004.
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