Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 1 - Introduction

1.1 Background

The growing awareness amongst multi-lateral and bi-lateral aid agencies of the importance of road crashes as a major cause of death and disability throughout the developing world is reflected in the recent establishment of the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP). This has been set up under the framework of the World Bank's Business Partners for Development Programme and is a partnership of private sectors, civil society and government organisations collaborating to improve the road safety situation in developing and transitional nations.

Following the setting up of the GRSP, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) UK was asked to undertake a review of road safety world-wide. This study (which is discussed in this report), identified that the number of people killed in road crashes in 1999 was between 750,000 and 880,000 and that, perhaps suprisingly about 85 percent of these deaths occurred in the developing and transitional countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The study also showed that Africa, as a region had a disproportionate share of global road fatalities in comparison with its share of licensed motor vehicles. Estimates also suggest that between 23-34 million people are injured world-wide in road crashes. In this world-wide safety review it was possible to draw on the results of detailed studies undertaken of the road safety situation in the Asia-Pacific region (funded by the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), in the Latin America- Caribbean region (funded by the Inter-American Development Bank) and in Eastern Europe (funded by the European Commission PHARE Multi-Country Transport Programme).

Unfortunately no comparable study of road safety in the countries of Africa has been undertaken in recent years, a fact identified by the road safety specialists within the United States of America's Department of Transportation. Clearly the United States has a direct interest in improving road safety overseas both from a humanitarian point of view and also because several hundred American citizens die in overseas road crashes every year with many taking place in Africa. It is also appropriate for the United States as a leader in traffic safety technology to provide assistance to the developing world to reduce traffic-related fatalities and to save lives.

Available data (see later) on crash-related fatality rates world-wide indicate that the problem is particularly severe in crashes of Sub-Saharan Africa. This, coupled with the fact that no detailed regional review of road safety has been undertaken in Africa, led to the decision that a project focusing on the countries of sub Saharan Africa would be set up by the US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Transit Administration and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Consequently TRL was appointed to undertake a review which would evaluate the scope and magnitude of the road safety problem in these countries. In addition the information collected would serve as a basis for subsequent US government aid or technical assistance in this area.

1.2 Scope of work

A summary of the work to be undertaken in Sub-Saharan African Countries (excluding the islands) is as follows:

  1. Review and summarise existing literature relating to road safety and identify existing databases or other information in these countries concerning road crashes, fatalities and injuries. The review is to encompass literature in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic but summarised in English.
  2. Contact identified sources of information to obtain data by country on:
    1. Number, location and type of crash taking place with information on casualty type by degree of severity.
    2. The most severe road safety problems.
    3. Data on the cost of road crashes.
    4. Methods used to collect data; type of information (and quality) collected.
    5. Data gaps and needs concerning road safety.
    6. Calculation of fatality rates (as road deaths per 10,000 licensed vehicles) and fatality risk (as road deaths per 100,000 people) for a given year for each country.
    7. List Principal Road Safety Agencies, Research Institutes and other road data sources.
  3. Based on the material collected from the various sources available, prepare summary tables presenting available data about motorisation, fatalities, injuries, economic losses and trends by country and sub-region.
  4. Prepare a final report on road safety in Sub-Saharan African Countries which makes full use of data tables prepared in (3) and which identifies data gaps that need to be filled.

The work commenced in October 1999 with a draft final report made available by June 2000. The countries included in the study are listed below. The work was undertaken by a three-person team from TRL providing about 50 person days total input. (It should be noted that this review of road safety in Africa was very much smaller than, for example the Asia-Pacific or East European studies which were about 15 times larger in terms of staffing inputs and costs).