UN Africa panel flags vulnerability to road deaths

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa says Zimbabwe is the most unsafe, with highest road accident deaths at 34.7 per 100,000 people

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 10 May 2019
Representational Photo: Getty Images

Despite the lowest level of motorisation in the world, Africa is most prone to traffic-related accidents with 26.6 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Zimbabwe was ranked as the most unsafe, with highest road deaths at 34.7 per 100,000 people. The global rate of road traffic death is 18.2 per 100,000 people, says the report.

According to the UNECA, the risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. In India 22.6 deaths per 100,000 people has been recorded.

Globally, more than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users: Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Pedestrians and cyclists represent 26 per cent of all deaths, while those using motorised two- and three-wheelers comprise another 28 per cent. Car occupants make up 29 per cent of all deaths and the remaining 17 per cent are unidentified road users.

Pedestrians are the most at risk

Across the world, people who travel by car make up 29 per cent of all deaths, but in the African region the highest proportion of deaths are among the pedestrians at 39 per cent.


But despite this, the African countries perform poorly in road safety management, says UNECA. While some countries have made progress with regard to post-crash care, and passed legislations to regulate road traffic risk factors such as vehicle safety standards. A majority of African countries have lax rules on speed limits, child restraints and drunk driving.

Only a handful of countries on the continent have adopted rules that are considered as best practice globally. While 60 per cent of countries with laws meeting best practice are from the European region, only 2 per cent are from the African region.

More efforts required to make roads safer in Africa

Only 40 countries in the African region have an agency that leads national road safety efforts. Currently, 29 countries have a national strategy for road traffic safety that is fully or partially funded, and another 5 have road safety listed in multiple strategies.

Only one country in the region — South Africa — applies UN safety standards for new cars. It applies standards for electronic stability control, pedestrian protection, seat belt anchorages and child restraints.

The UNECA urged African countries to instill strong leadership to tackle the risk of road traffic deaths across the continent. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UNECA, called upon the African countries to reduce the rate of road traffic accident-induced deaths by half. 

The UNECA made this urgent call amid the ongoing United Nations Global Road Safety Week, which is being celebrated globally, from May 6 to 12, with the  theme — Leadership for Road Safety — acknowledging  that a stronger leadership is needed to advance road safety in countries and communities worldwide.

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