$100bn cost of million road deaths
GENEVA, Switzerland -- Traffic accidents are set to become one of the world's biggest killers, with pedestrians the most at risk, a U.N.-sponsored research body has warned.
More than one million people currently die each year on the road at a cost to developing countries of at least $100 billion -- twice as much as they receive in aid -- a public health expert has said.
Experts are now forming an international road safety network to pinpoint priority research areas, inform policy makers and help develop ways to prevent accidents, particularly in poor nations.
"This is a neglected health problem," Dr Adnan Hyder, co-founder of the Road Traffic Injury Research Network told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
"The global cost of road accidents in developing and emerging nations is at least $100 billion a year. This is more than twice the total aid received from all bilateral and multilateral sources," Hyder said.
"These accidents are currently the ninth leading cause of death globally," he said. "Two-thirds of the people who die are pedestrians," Hyder told reporters. "People who will never own a car in their life are at the greatest risk."
By 2020, road accidents will be the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and deaths linked to mental illness, Hyder said.
The network wants to collect evidence of the impact of unsafe roads, reckless and drunken driving, speeding, dangerous overtaking and poorly maintained vehicles and use that to study accident prevention measures.
Supported by the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the Geneva-based Global Forum for Health Research, the network wants more support and investment to analyse the cost-effectiveness of prevention measures.
"In terms of the rates of injury, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are regions of the world where road traffic accidents are taking many, many lives, particularly in the younger age groups," said Hyder, also professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
But even in rich countries, poor people are the hardest hit by road accidents, according to studies in Sweden, Hyder said.
Poorly maintained public transport was responsible for 60 to 70 percent of accidents in developing countries, and young men between the ages of 14 and 45 -- the most productive group in society -- were most likely to be killed or hurt.
"This issue needs a global visibility. Part of our mandate is to make sure there is more money for research because we don't have answers to many of the questions now," Hyder said, noting road traffic accidents fall at the bottom of the list in terms of global research investment.
The group, which set up specific research projects earlier this month in Uganda, Kenya and Pakistan, is made up of researchers from both developed and developing countries.
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