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Road traffic accidents: A Truly Global Risk

Every year around 1.24 million people are killed in road traffic accidents.  Put another way, someone is killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads every six seconds. Unquestionably, the most likely risk of injury or death for those operating globally doesn’t come from terrorism, political violence, war, etc. — but instead the road traffic accident.  This is especially true in low to middle income countries, which account for 92% of road traffic accident fatalities.1 But the risk isn’t limited to the developing world. According to European Union data, 60% of work related fatalities are the result of vehicle accidents2 and in the US, the biggest source of workplace injuries come from vehicle accidents.

Avoiding road travel isn’t an option for those working around the world. So what to do? A few recommendations:


  • Limit self-driving to familiar environments with develop road and emergency response infrastructure.
  • Hire trained, experienced drivers and use appropriate, well-maintained vehicles. Drivers are a critical resource and should understand driving conditions (formal & informal) rules of the road and, importantly, how to respond in the event of an accident or other incident (check-points, demonstrations, etc).
  • Use vetted, professional taxi companies where organizational vehicles aren’t an option. Avoid street taxis outside the developed world — not only will this help mitigate the risks of vehicle accidents, but will also reduce exposure to opportunistic crime.

  • Use seatbelts…everyone, all the time.
  • Maintain safe speed and following distance. Don’t be shy to tell a driver to slow down.
  • Ensure drivers practice safe habits:
    • Avoid using mobile phones
    • Never drink alcohol and drive
    • Get sufficient rest
  • Keep doors locked and windows up.
  • Plan travel to avoid known trouble spots and limit being caught in known wrong places at the wrong time
  • Understand how to respond to road traffic accident, have a plan for accessing emergency medical care. See previous blogpost, A Resource is NOT a Plan.


Combined with plans, procedures and resources designed to respond to medical emergencies the steps above can help mitigate the risk of harm from road traffic accidents and streamline response in the event of an accident.

Remember: you don’t have to be in a vehicle to fall victim to road traffic accidents – according to the World Health Organization, over half of those killed on the world’s roads are pedestrians, bicyclists, or those on motorcycles/scooters.

The risk from road traffic accidents is real and it isn’t going away. While you can’t avoid the risk, with some basic resources and procedures you can lower your exposure and be prepared to manage in the event of an accident.