The recently released Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023 offers a crucial overview of the progress and challenges in road safety worldwide. To dissect these issues, the Alliance recently convened an online session on NGOs and the Global Status Report with Nhan Tran, Head, Safety and Mobility, Department of the Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization (WHO). This session focused on key messages from the report and how NGOs can use it for advocating for improvements in road safety and achieving the Global Plan targets.
Adapting to emerging mobility trends
According to Nhan, “one of the things that emerged with the current report that has not been seen before is that 3% of all deaths were among users of micro mobility devices like scooters. These are things that did not exist 10 years ago when we started looking at the Decade of Action and the message is to be vigilant about emerging mobility trends. As we encourage people to move away from cars and start walking and biking and other devices, we have to think about how our environment and infrastructure should be adapted and modified to accommodate the users of these devices to ensure they are using them safely.”
A slight decreasing trend in road fatalities
Prior to the first Decade of Action for Road Safety, road traffic fatalities were on the rise from 1.19 million deaths in 2000 to 1.25 million deaths in 2011. “After the launch of the first Decade of Action in 2011, there has been a decreasing trend in road traffic fatalities, which has continued into the second Decade of Action 2021–2030.” Road traffic fatalities decreased in 108 countries, out of which 10 countries met the goal of reducing fatalities by 50%, and 35 countries achieved a 30-49% reduction. While it can be hard to make generalizations about countries that achieved significant reductions in fatalities, Nhan said that “the commonality between these countries that achieved these significant reductions is in the implementation of evidence-based interventions to improve road safety. We do see that in these countries, over the last 10 years, interventions have been put in place and we are starting to see the results of that. There have been a lot of efforts made and interactions with government which has started to yield progress. These countries have invested in road safety and implementing and following some of the best practice recommendations.”
Africa’s challenges amidst global progress
Despite the general decreasing trend in fatalities, a critical aspect of the report is the disparity in progress across regions. According to Nhan, “while global and regional trends show a decrease in road fatalities, it is concerning to see that the number of deaths in Africa has increased by 17% over the last decade. Disaggregating the data allows us to pinpoint where the problems really are.” Countries in Africa continue to grapple with high rates of road traffic crashes, deaths, and injuries, despite these countries having less cars and paved roads than high-income countries. The lack of progress in the African region is due to weak commitment to improving road safety, including weak legislation and poor road safety design and lack of considerations for road safety measures.
Impressive reductions in fatalities achieved in some low-income countries
Despite this lack of progress in the region, some countries have made remarkable progress in reducing road traffic fatalities. Burundi achieved a 30–49% reduction in road traffic fatalities, serving as a beacon of progress in the region, and underscoring the potential for significant improvements in road safety in LMICs. “Burundi’s progress is really encouraging for us because it shows that low-income countries can make progress through the implementation of many of the interventions and strategies that NGOs have been advocating for in the last few years”. Burundi’s progress demonstrates that with commitment and support, the 2030 target is achievable in low- and middle-income countries, as well as high-income countries.
Differences in road safety data
NGOs highlighted that they face challenges in explaining the differences between the country reported fatalities and WHO estimated fatalities in the report. Nhan explained that these differences arise from variations in the methodology and parameters used by WHO and national authorities, including definition of what constitutes a road traffic fatality. “While some countries put a limit to the number of days between a crash and fatality, others only report fatalities as those that occur on the spot. So, it is important to understand where these differences arise.” He also highlighted that even within countries, different agencies that collect data on fatalities such as the police and ministry of health could have different parameters for determining what constitutes a road fatality.
Furthermore, the number of sources for road traffic data also affect the quality of the data and could lead to differences in numbers reported. “We look at the quality of the civil registration and vital statistics in all countries and we group them in terms of their quality. High income countries like Spain have a death registration system that we consider high quality because they are more developed and inclusive, and the data is from all possible sources including hospitals and police and so we do not usually have a lot of changes in our consultation process in determining our estimates. But in countries that do not have good quality civil registration and vital statistics, then we do not have as much confidence in the numbers reported because the sources of reporting are not inclusive. So, we try to adjust for the under-reporting due to the incompleteness of the data.”
Efforts are underway to harmonize and improve data collection methodologies and reporting on road traffic fatalities at country level, including establishment of comprehensive registries for capturing and disaggregating these data. “The main goal of what we are doing to improve data reporting across countries is not just to improve the reporting of road traffic deaths but to improve the reporting of all deaths.”
Absence of serious injury data
Members also raised the issue of the absence of data on serious injury in the 2023 report. This data had been included in the previous 2018 report. This is due to the superficial nature of the reporting of this data because they are not well captured and are arrived at by approximation. “What we have reported in the past were guesstimates and we have chosen not to do that this time because we do not want to perpetuate guesstimates and because the issue of serious injuries is quite complicated because they are not well captured by police or the health sector. However, we still recognize the issue of serious injuries and one of our main priorities at WHO is to work on improving the methodology for collecting serious injury data.”
There is hope, evidenced by the progress some countries have made. Therefore, Nhan advised NGOs to use the general trends and key arguments on evidence-based actions and stronger road safety legislation and infrastructure improvements to present their advocacy case to decision makers, and to focus their advocacy on implementation of safe systems and strengthening road safety data. “The bottomline is that the targets have not been met and that there is still a lot of work to do. People are still dying and there are still systems that are unsafe, there are still roads that are poorly designed and transport systems that are heavily skewed towards cars, and other evidence of the lack of safety that we are seeing. These are the key messages that we need to be focusing on.”
Next steps and continued dialogue
The process of finalizing and publishing the country profiles for the report is in its concluding stages. However, NGOs can access this information through the mobile app. The report will be translated into the official UN languages to improve accessibility to the report.
Members with additional questions to WHO on the Global Status Report can reach out to the Alliance Secretariat at email@example.com. Their questions will be communicated with the WHO with feedback provided.
Question: Has the data from earlier road safety reports (2012, 2015, etc.) been revised, and will these data be made available for comparison with the 2023 data in the app or country reports?
Answer: Data from the previous report has been revised and were used to compare differences with the current data. However, data from earlier reports will not be available on the app but can be provided upon request.
Question: What are the 35 countries that achieved a 30-49% reduction in road traffic deaths and can we find them listed on the app?
Answer: The countries that achieved these reductions are not listed on the app because it does not contain the 2010 estimates. However, the countries are as follows:
Question: How can I determine my country’s road safety ranking compared to others globally, and within region and income group?
Answer: In the “Compare Section” you can compare two country profiles simultaneously when you select the “Multiple Countries and/or Territories” option. Alternatively, to compare a single country with global data, choose the “Single Country or Territory” option, select the country and select “Compare with world” at the bottom.
Question: Does the app categorize countries based on funding status of national road safety strategies (fully funded, partially funded, not funded, or unknown)?
Answer: Unfortunately, the app does not have this categorization and cannot hold all the detailed data. However, these data can be made available on request.
Question: Are the data in the report available and accessible in a spreadsheet, and when will the spreadsheet be available?
Answer: The data are available in a spreadsheet and should be available by the end of February 2024. It will be on the SAM landing page. Other data such as those used for the modelling of mortality are available on request.