As vehicle ownership grows in cities worldwide, it becomes increasingly important for cities to implement well-designed bus systems that improve road safety for all users. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ.
Every year, more than 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes worldwide, equivalent to nearly five Boeing 747 plane crashes every day. As developing economies grow and private car ownership becomes more mainstream, the number of associated crashes and fatalities will continue to rise.
The challenge of traffic safety often flies under the radar in cities, where the social and economic challenges of accommodating growing populations take precedent. Without meaningful change, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that traffic crashes could become the fifth leading cause of premature death worldwide by 2030. This takes a particular toll on cities, which are already home nearly half of global traffic fatalities. City leaders must prioritize traffic safety measures to ensure that their citizens have safe, healthy, and economically prosperous cities to call home.
With urban growth comes traffic safety challenges
While there are a number of factors that contribute to traffic crashes, two of the primary challenges arerising motorization trends in cities worldwide and the issue of road equity: the most vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, are most impacted by traffic crashes. On top of that, these users, typically lower-income, don’t always have the power or capacity to create the necessary changes.
The number of privately owned cars on the road hit the one billion mark for the first time in 2010. If we continue business-as-usual, that number will reach an estimated 2.5 billion cars by 2050. All of these new cars will lead to an increase in traffic congestion in cities worldwide, increasing the probability of traffic crashes and resulting fatalities.
Despite these challenges, there is still time to adopt a different path for traffic safety by following the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework. We can avoid unnecessary trips to prevent traffic crashes and instead create compact, walkable communities with access to mass transport. We can shift trips out of cars and into high quality transit systems and active transport modes. And lastly, we can improve transport and urban design to maximize the safety of all trips by investing in people-oriented design strategiesand sustainable transport infrastructure.