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Social Issues
A Dramatic Look At The Worldwide Toll Of Driving Deaths
September 20, 2013
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Last year, about 780 people died in airplane accidents. About 11,000 were killed as a result of terrorist attacks. And 1.24 million people died as a result of a collision on the road.

That insight into the toll caused by traffic fatalities comes from Roads Kill, a new interactive map from the Pulitzer Center:

"While individual highway fatalities are tragedies of monumental consequence to the victims and their families, journalistically speaking, there is nothing particularly challenging about covering these stories," writes the Pulitzer Center's Tom Hundley on PBS's Mediashift. "What is supremely challenging, however, is reporting on highway fatalities on a global scale — that is, covering the rapidly escalating toll of highway deaths for what it truly is: a major public health crisis."

Like so many other public health crises, traffic fatalities hit the developing world the hardest; indeed, data from the World Health Organization shows that it will soon be fifth leading cause of death in developing nations, ahead of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The Pulitzer Center's map reveals some fascinating insights into the differing safety records across the world. In developed countries, roads have become progressively safer since the 1970s, when car safety standards and enforcement for drunk driving and seat belts started becoming stricter. The U.S., an early pioneer of those standards, now lags behind other advanced nations, with a toll of about 11.4 deaths per 100,000. Canada has just over half that, at 6.8 deaths per 100,000, and Sweden leads the world, with only three.

The map also points out some surprising facts about developing countries: in Nigeria, where there are 33.7 driving deaths per 100,000 people, the Federal Road Safety Commission just recently instituted mandatory driving lessons and tests. In Kenya, unregulated public transit accounts for 38 per cent of all road deaths. In Egypt, as many as 12,000 die each year from collisions — that's more people than died in the revolution there. One of the most dangerous countries is the Dominican Republic, where two- and three-wheeled vehicles are common; it registers 42 deaths per 100,000.

When Michelle Yeoh appeared on the show last year, George had the opportunity to talk to her about road safety in the developing world, a cause that she's deeply involved with. Watch George's full interview with Michelle.

Via Mediashift


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