July 9, 2012

Researchers recommend steps to improve global road safety

Road traffic crashes kill more than 1.2 million people each year, with 90 percent of those fatalities occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Yet despite a growing body of data to support effective and proven interventions, proportional funding for implementation in developing countries has not been forthcoming, leaving a gap between evidence and action.

A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health outlines steps to address the implementation gap in low- and middle-income countries. IIRU Director Adnan Hyder and doctoral student Katherine Allen, along with members of the World Health Organization, the Global Road Safety Partnership and Bloomberg Philanthropies, among others, have published, “Addressing the Implementation Gap in Global Road Safety: Exploring Features of an Effective Response and Introducing a 10-Country Program,” in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Using their experiences in the field of injury prevention, global road safety and health services delivery, and taking into account WHO’s benchmark 2004 world report on road traffic injury prevention, the team of researchers recommends 10 characteristics that are necessary to effectively address this evidence-to-action gap. Among them are a concerted effort to coordinate across multiple sectors, the need to address road safety issues on a scale that is not only commensurate with the burden but is focused where road traffic injuries are highest and, perhaps most important, the need for adequate funding.

“We know the statistics,” Hyder said. “We know that 90 percent of road traffic deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, despite the fact that they have less than 50 percent of the world’s registered automobiles. We know that relatively inexpensive interventions can be effective. For example, wearing a seatbelt correctly can reduce the risk of fatalities by 61 percent. So why wouldn’t you support that?”

In the paper, the team introduces the Road Safety in 10 Countries project, an initiative designed as a response to the implementation gap. The RS-10 project is a five-year initiative, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, that is dedicated to reducing the burden of road traffic injuries in 10 low- and middle-income countries by evaluating and implementing road safety solutions in places where interventions are needed the most.

The RS-10 project is composed of six consortium partners—the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, WHO, the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, the Global Road Safety Partnership, the Association for Safe International Road Travel and EMBARQ—and has a simple goal: to save lives by providing evidence for stronger road safety interventions around the world. Targeting the 10 countries that account for nearly half of all traffic deaths globally, the project addresses many of the proposed characteristics of an effective response, including a scale and focus appropriate to the burden, coordination across multiple sectors, and training and capacity building for in-country collaborators. The project has not only provided funding for each of the participating countries to address road traffic injuries but has also created partnerships among local, national and global experts on road safety, which in turn will support long-term sustainability.

“The RS-10 project affords us a unique opportunity to help address a sizable portion of the world’s burden of road traffic injuries,” Hyder said. And, he notes, the project is already making huge strides. “We’ve recently published a special issue of Traffic Injury Prevention, which includes 11 scientific papers highlighting new and aggregate data collected and analyzed in the first two years of the project. These results will extend beyond the project and serve as a foundation for future road safety work globally.”

The study was funded with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.