International Injury & Fatality Statistics
International Injury and Fatality Statistics This section summarizes the available worldwide statistics on damage to humans caused by motor vehicles. World Health reports provided useful aggregate totals for various regions, and individual nation reports supplied country-specific data.
A traffic accident is defined as any vehicle accident occurring on a public highway (i.e. originating on, terminating on, or involving a vehicle partially on the highway). These accidents therefore include collisions between vehicles and animals, vehicles and pedestrians, or vehicles and fixed obstacles. Single vehicle accidents, in which one vehicle alone (and no other road user) was involved, are included. All fatality and injury totals include pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists unless otherwise noted.
The Transport Apocalypse
The Future - In higher-income countries, road traffic accidents are already among the top ten leading causes of disease burden in 1998 as measured in DALYs (disability-adjusted life years). In less developed countries, road traffic accidents were the most significant cause of injuries, ranking eleventh among the most important causes of lost years of healthy life. According to a World Health Organization/World Bank report "The Global Burden of Disease", deaths from non-communicable diseases are expected to climb from 28.1 million a year in 1990 to 49.7 million by 2020 - an increase in absolute numbers of 77%. Traffic accidents are the main cause of this rise. Road traffic injuries are expected to take third place in the rank order of disease burden by the year 2020.
Projected change in the ranking of the 15 leading causes of death and disease (DALYs) worldwide, 1990-2020 - source WHO "The Global Burden of Disease"
"The Magnitude of the Problem" - On average in the industrialized countries, and also in many developing countries, one hospital bed in ten is occupied by an accident victim. Traffic accidents are a major cause of severe injuries in most countries.
In the WHO 1995 State of World Health Report, external causes such as accidents and violence accounted for about 4 million deaths, or some 8% of the total, again mostly among adults. Developing countries have nearly four times the number of deaths from these causes as the developed world.
The 1999 WHO publication "Injury: A Leading Cause of the Global Burden of Disease," reports that the leading injury-related cause of death among people aged 15-44 years is traffic injuries. Of the 5.8 million people who died of injuries in 1998, 1,170,694 died as a direct result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Worldwide, the WHO reports that 38,848,625 injuries were received by people involved in motor vehicle accidents in 1998. The chart below summarizes the traffic statistics in the WHO report. The groupings into poor nations and wealthy nations reflect the report.
Europe - In 1995, according to a 1998 World Health Organization Press Release WHO/57 , two million traffic accidents resulted in 120,000 deaths and 2.5 million injured people in the whole European region. One in every three road traffic deaths involved people younger than 25 years of age. Pedestrians and bicyclists were particularly vulnerable groups, making up 45% of all road deaths in the United Kingdom. In Hungary, the proportion was even higher, over 50%, but in most Western European countries it was substantially lower (17% in France, 20% in Germany and around 30% in Denmark and the Netherlands). In motorized traffic the highest-risk group was motorcyclists, with a death rate ten times higher than for car occupants, and an injury rate six times higher than that of car occupants.
The Former Soviet Union - A 1997 WHO press release, WHO/13, reported that traffic accidents caused as many as 4% of all deaths worldwide. The highest cause-specific mortality in males was found in Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia, and the lowest reported in Azerbaijan, Norway and Sweden. The highest mortality rates among men (3% or more) were in Greece, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain; the rate was less than 1% in Azerbaijan, and 1% in Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The highest mortality rates among women were to be found in Latvia, Estonia and the Russian Federation; the lowest in Azerbaijan, United Kingdom and Norway. In France, Greece, New Zealand and the United States of America, traffic accidents caused 2% of all women's deaths.
Sub-Saharan Africa - According to the WHO, Ethiopia has the highest rate of fatalities per vehicle in the world. Uganda ranks second in road fatality rates in the world behind Ethiopia. Emergency medical systems are often poor and injury prevention programmes are rarely available.
Australia - The Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Annual Road Fatalities Report for 1997 lists 1,768 fatalities in motor vehicle accidents while their Hospitalizations Report records 21,531 serious injuries that required hospitalization.
Canada - Tranportation Canada's 1998 Annual Report lists the 1997 injury total as 221,186 with a reported 3,064 fatalites.
Germany - According to the German Federal Statistical Office in 1998, 7,792 citizens were killed in motor vehicle accidents, with 497,000 injuries reported. We estimate that 65,000 of the reported injuries were serious.
Great Britain - In Great Britain the Department of Environment, Transport, and the Regions reports that motor vehicle accidents accounted for 327,544 injuries in 1997 with 42,967 serious injuries and 3,599 fatalities.
Italy - A 1995 Reuter's news article put 1994 road deaths in Italy at 6,000 according to ISTAT, the National Institute of Statistics in Italy. Based on that figure, we estimate 1994 motor vehicle injuries in Italy to be around 550,000 with about 71,000 of thems serious.
Japan - In Japan, a recent National Organization for Automotive Safety & Victims Aid (OSA) report " Status of recent road traffic accidents" states that in 1998 fatalities and injuries due to road accidents in Japan totalled 999,886, with motor vehicle occupants accounting for 608,697, or 61% of the total. Although the report did not include the exact number of fatalities, we estimate that 1998 fatalities numbered about 12,000 with approximately 129,000 serious injuries.
Mexico - The National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information reports, in their publication "Mortality by Selected Causes of Death 1991-96," that in 1996 35,000 citizens died from trauma-related accidents. Although the actual numbers are not given, we estimate that at least 35% of them or 12,250 were killed in motor vehicle accidents.
Nordic Countries - Sweden's National Society for Road Safety keeps track of motor vehicle fatalities in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. 1997 fatalities in Denmark totaled 495; in Finland 430; in Iceland 15; in Norway 300; in Sweden 540. The total number of motor vehicle fatalities in 1997 for the Nordic countries was 1780. We estimate that about 165,000 people were injured, about 22,000 seriously.
South Africa - South Africa's Car Today Magazine reports late in 1999 that over 9,000 people will die in some half-million road accidents in South Africa during 1999, at a cost to the South African economy approaching R13-billion.
Spain - The Spanish Statistical Institute reports that in 1997, 5,790 Spainards lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents. We estimate that motor vehicle injuries totaled 500,000 with about 65,000 of them serious.
United States - The death toll on our highways makes driving the number one cause of death and injury for young people ages 5 to 27. Highway crashes cause 94 percent of all transportation fatalities and 99 percent of all transportation injuries, yet traffic safety programs receive only one percent of the funding of the U.S. DOT budget. The staggering loss of life and the incidence of life-threatening injuries occurring each year is best described as a public health crisis. According to a WHO report, "The Injury Pyramid," for every motor vehicle injury resulting in death in the US, 13 people sustain injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.
In the US DOT publication "The Economic Costs Of Motor Vehicle Crashes," NHTSA investigator Lawrence J. Blincoe reports that in 1994, motor vehicle crashes accounted for 40,676 fatalites, and 4,100,000 injuries (of which 533,000 or 13% were serious). The total lifetime cost to the US economy for automobile accidents that occured in 1994 was $150.5 billion. The 1996 NHTSA report "1996 Traffic Safety Facts" (pdf) came up with similar though somewhat improved statistics: 41,907 fatalities and 3,511,000 injuries, 456,430 of them serious. The 1997 NHTSA report "Traffic Safety Facts 1997" reports 41,967 fatalities and 3,399,000 injuries, 441,870 of them serious. The 1998 NHTSA report "Traffic Safety Facts 1998 Annual Report" reports 41,471 fatalities and 3,192,000 injuries, 414,960 of them serious.
Problems With Trucks & SUVs - Representing the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, consumer activist Joan Claybrook presented the following information to the House of Representatives in 1996 and 1997: "Each year nearly 5,000 Americans die in truck crashes. According to the IIHS, in 1995, 98 percent of the people killed in two-vehicle crashes involving passenger cars and big trucks were occupants of the passenger vehicles. Since 1992, there have been more fatalities in collisions involving SUVs and cars than in car-to- car crashes, largely as a result of the disparity in vehicle weight (mass), height, and front-end aggressivity between SUVs and passenger cars. Of those persons fatally injured in SUV-car collisions, the vast majority, eighty per cent, were car occupants (see NHTSA report, 'Relationships Between Vehicle Size and Fatality Risk')."
Four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are designed to be driven for work, hauling, and off-road purposes. They were not designed to be people movers, and don't handle nearly as well as passenger cars or minivans. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that SUVs are four times more likely to roll over than passenger cars in high-speed maneuvers. In addition, some smaller top-heavy SUVs have rolled over in NHTSA side impact collision testing. SUV-to-car collisions are six times more likely to kill the occupants of the smaller vehicle when compared to a normal car-to-car collision. You may be safer inside an SUV, but you're at greater risk of killing others in the event of an accident.