Latin America’s efforts to reduce fatalities from road tragedies seem to be working, but the figure falls short of target. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the road traffic fatality rate in the region reached 15.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, lower than the 16.1 deaths registered in 2010.
To realize sustainable development goals and to meet the UN resolution it signed in 2010, the region needs to cut the fatality rate by 50% by the end of this decade.
In 2010, Latin American countries signed the UN resolution proclaiming 2011-20 the decade of action for road safety. Many countries have since been devising newer and newer safety standards to reduce the rate of fatality.
In 2011, they collectively adopted a regional road safety action plan that calls on countries to adapt their legislation to address the top five risk factors for road safety: speed, alcohol, helmet use, seat-belt use and child restraints.
The countries with the most ambitious goals (a 50% reduction contemplated in their national plans) are Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Uruguay and Suriname. Among them, Argentina seems to have set an example that others can follow. In 2008, it created the National Road Safety Agency, with an observatory that monitors policies, campaigns, strategies and results.
“This has led to significant improvements,” says a similar study conducted by the World Bank last year.
Colombia ended 2013 with the approval of a similar agency, in a country where road accidents represent the second most frequent cause of violent death, according to the World Bank. Considering other reports, traffic accidents have increased since 2011 in Bolivia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
As much as 27% of road traffic deaths occur among pedestrians, 20% among motorcyclists and 3.7% among bicyclists.
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), only 57% of the region’s countries have defined goals for the reduction of fatalities in road traffic accidents. The UN agency’s report found the fatality rate grew 20% in the first decade of the current century, rising to 17.68 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 from 14.75 deaths in the year 2000.
The ECLAC is now setting the stage for its 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety that will be held in Brasilia on November 18-19. This time the UN agency is urging the regional countries to redouble efforts to achieve the goal of halving the number of deaths stemming from these tragedies by 2020.