Road traffic injuries

WHO/Tina Kiaer

Every 6 minutes someone dies on the roads of the WHO European Region – 230 people each day, 83 000 people every year. Road trauma kills more people aged 5–14 than any other cause and is the second leading cause of death for those aged 15–29. Every death is just the tip of the iceberg, with millions more people non-fatally injured to various severities, many with life-long consequences. Almost 40% of those killed are the vulnerable road users – the pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Road traffic mortality is also widely disparate in the countries of the European Region, with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States having a road traffic mortality rate 3 times higher than the countries of the European Union.

Despite these levels of trauma, significant progress is being made in the countries of the Region. Between 2010 and 2015, road traffic mortality reduced by 33%, compared to a global average that increased by 20%. Such an achievement is cause for momentary celebration and a reinvigoration of efforts.

Road traffic injuries are not “accidents” – which is defined as a random, unpredictable and unpreventable event – they have risk factors, predictors and determinants, and are therefore preventable.

WHO/Europe's action

Recognizing its public health and international development priority, road safety is a key target under the Sustainable Development Goals, with a 50% reduction in road traffic fatalities called for by 2020.

WHO provides technical support to Member States of the Region to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate data-driven and evidence-based actions for road safety.

WHO recommends a “safe systems” approach to road safety. Originating in European countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, this approach to road safety recognizes that the human body is highly vulnerable to injury and that humans make mistakes, but a set of complementary interventions to create safer roads, safer vehicles and safer road users can accommodate driver error and prevent crashes from resulting in injury or loss of life.

WHO/Europe’s activities aim to help ensure road safety and prevent road traffic injuries by collating evidence on health effects and prevention measures, identifying risk factors and promoting policy action and evidence-based interventions. This seeks to actively support countries in achieving the goals of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which are to reduce the unnecessary deaths and disabilities on the roads. To provide a baseline for the Decade, data was collated for the "European facts and Global status report on road safety 2015".