Road safety in the African region

The African region has the highest estimated road traffic fatality rate of 26.6 per 100 000 population, despite having the lowest level of motorization in the world.

Half of all road traffic deaths in the region occur among vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists). The African region has the highest proportion of deaths among pedestrians at 39%. This indicates an urgent need for policymakers to ensure the prioritisation of interventions specifically targeted
at improving the safety of these vulnerable road users.

While the majority of countries in the region have enacted national laws on key behavioural risk factors (speed, drink–driving, motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints), in very few countries in the region do these laws meet best practice.

In order for road safety legislation to be effective, there needs to be sustained and strong enforcement. In most countries in the region, enforcement of key road safety laws is weak, thus limiting the ability of legislation to achieve its full potential.

Developing intermediate indicators is important in order to measure changes in road user behaviour, and thus allow an assessment of programmes that include legislation and enforcement. However, to date there are few countries in the region report data on helmet-wearing rates, seat-belt wearing rates, or the proportion of deaths attributed to alcohol.

Vehicle safety is a key component for road safety. Only one country in the region applies 4 of the 7 UN priority vehicle safety standards.

Road traffic fatality data are vastly underreported in the region, with estimated figures almost 4 times that of the official reported figures, while the quality of data on non-fatal injuries is also of concern.

While a number of countries in the region have adopted policies to encourage walking and cycling, there is concern that if these are not accompanied by additional safety measures – notably speed reduction, they will not achieve the desired effects, and may indeed make roads more dangerous for vulnerable road users.

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