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A world free of high-risk roads

The Global Impact of Injuries

Crashes happen one by one.
Injuries happen one by one.
Lives are lost one by one.

What is the reality of the Global Impact of Road Injuries?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.35 million people are killed and up to 50 million more suffer injuries every year.[i] These injuries often cause life-long suffering and disability and take a huge toll on families and communities.

The human grief is immense.  Read more about how road crash injuries affect real people and real lives.

The cost of emergency response, trauma wards and long-term health care is significant.  Based on Transport Accident Commission (TAC) claim cost data more than half of all costs occur more than two years after the crash – buried deep within a health and social welfare system.

To help support debate about the right scale of response to this enormous level of trauma, we’ve drawn on data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the TAC and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to make simple high-level estimates of the types of injuries likely to be occurring in every country around the world, and their costs. The methodology and assumptions are documented below (where countries have more detailed or accurate data that should be used in preference to this high-level assessment).

The most common and most costly injuries worldwide

More than 100,000 people are injured in road crashes each and every day.  The new costs that will be borne by the victims, their families, emergency services, health systems, insurers and business increases by over $6 billion every day.  This is unsustainable.

Injuries and costs by country

Using the iRAP Big Data Tool, you can find our estimates of annual numbers of injuries by type and cost. The data can also be searched by WHO region and income level.

Assumptions, notes and references

Income level, region and number of fatalities

Data on the income levels of countries, their region and the number of road crash fatalities that occur each year was sourced from the World Health Organization (WHO) using the modelled number of road traffic deaths (point estimate).[i]

Number of injuries per country

Estimates of the numbers of injuries that occur each year around the world vary. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated “…up to 50 million injuries” occur each year while the World Bank has stated “…20 to 50 million are seriously injured.”[i],[ii] Previous work prepared for iRAP suggested that for the purposes of iRAP assessments, ratios of serious injuries to fatalities from 8:1 to 12:1 could be used.[iii] There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that ratios of injuries to fatalities tend to be higher in high income countries compared to low and middle income countries (including because crashes tend to be more survivable in high income countries). For the purposes of this analysis, which focuses on all injuries, the following ratios were used:

Country income group Injury severity
Fatalities Serious Other
Low 1 10.0 15.0
Middle 1 12.5 17.5
High 1 15.0 20.0

 

Applying these numbers with the WHO fatality estimates produced a global estimate of slightly more than 37 million injuries globally per year, which is consistent with the WHO and World Bank estimates.

Number of injuries by road user per country

The estimated number of injuries for each country per year was distributed across five different road user categories, consistent with road death proportions reported by the WHO. [iv] The road user types are: vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers), motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists and others (where the road user type was not known). “Others” have been distributed proportionately across the defined road user types and where no data on road user types has been available the average split for countries in that region has been used.

Number of injuries by road user type and type of injury

The estimated number of injuries by road user type for each country per year was distributed across 20 types of non-fatal injury presented in the table above, consistent with proportions reported by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) for each of those road user categories.[v] TAC data for crashes that occurred in the years 2012-16 were referenced.

Total cost of fatalities

Based on the True Cost of Road Crashes [iii] the cost of a road fatality was assumed as 70 x GDP per capita for each country to ensure global consistency.  It is noted that this cost is greater than the TAC claim cost of a road fatality that only includes the direct costs incurred, and some countries may have their own official estimate for the value of life.

Total cost of injuries

For the purposes of this analysis, the total cost of fatalities and serious injuries estimated in the iRAP Business Case for Safer Roads tool was used for each country. It is acknowledged that the full injury burden presented above includes all injuries and therefore any cost estimate used in this analysis is likely to be conservative.

Cost of injuries by road user type and injury type

The TAC data was analysed to provide the typical costs by injury type for each road user category (e.g. pedestrian with severe ABI).  Using the total cost of injuries by road user category for an individual country, the costs were spread in the same proportion for each injury type.  The total costs for an injury type (e.g. Severe ABI) was then calculated by aggregating the total cost for each road user category (e.g. pedestrians, cyclists).

[i] WHO (2018) Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018.

[ii] World Bank (2018) The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable.

[iii] McMahon, K. and Dahdah, S. (2008) The True Cost of Road Crashes: Valuing Life and the Cost of a Serious Injury.

[iv] See: Table A2: Road Traffic Deaths and Proportion of Road Users by Country/Area, WHO (2018) Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018.

[v] TAC – iRAP Road Injury Dashboard (2020) https://www.irap.org/TAC-iRAP-Road-Injury-Dashboard

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