Trauma and Road Traffic Accidents

The information here is provided by courtesy of the Network's short online course - "An Introduction to Global Health". 




Trauma is the greatest cause of death globally between the ages of 5 and 29 years and between 80% - 90% of all trauma occurs in Low and Middle Income Countries. Given that the majority of the population in low- income countries is aged under 35, trauma has a disproportionate effect on the working populations. Despite this, the need for improved systems of trauma care is generally under-recognised. To learn more, have a look at “Trauma – the forgotten pandemic?” by Nigel Rossiter (Wessex Surgeon and Chair of the Primary Trauma Care Foundation).


(“Trauma – the forgotten pandemic?”



Injuries Worldwide 


Taking the world as a whole, the share of deaths from injuries has hardly changed over the last 30 years having been 9% in 1990 and 8% in 2017.


  • The main injuries causing of death are from road traffic accidents. 
  • Suicides are the second most important cause  of death from injury. (Table 1)


Table 1 


Deaths from Injuries, 2017

Source : Our world in Data


Road                              1,240,000

Suicide                              793,823

Homicide                          403,346

Drownings                        295,210


Road Traffic Accidents


1.24 million people died from road traffic crashes in 2017.  A further 20 – 30 million more suffer non-fatal injuries, with many resulting in disability.


More than half of all road traffic accident deaths are among vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. They cost most countries around 3% of their Gross Domestic Product. 


  • Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young people aged 5 – 29 years.
  • Around three quarters of all road traffic accident deaths occur in young males under the age of 25 years.
  • 93% of fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though they have around 60% of the world’s vehicles. 


Death rates from road traffic injury are highest in the African region. (Map 1)


The risk for a health volunteer dying in Africa could be greater from a road traffic accident than from malaria. 


Map 1





What is being done? 


WHO provides technical support to countries with the objective of supporting Member States in road safety policy planning, implementation and evaluation.


Its safe system approach includes


  • Measures to reduce speed (Every 1% increase in speed produces a 4% increase in the fatal crash risk)
  • Prevention of drinking alcohol and driving
  • Using motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints
  • Preventing distraction e.g. drivers using mobile phones are around 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than I they are not.
  • Improving road infrastructure
  • Ensuring vehicles are safe
  • Ensuring good post-crash care
  • Enforcement of traffic laws


Further reading


WHO Global status report on road safety, 2018. 


WHO – Save Lives : a road safety technical package


WHO – Statistics on Road Safety


WHO – More about road safety





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