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April 17, 2012

Special Journal Issue Highlights New IIRU Research on Global Road Safety

More than 1.2 million people die in road traffic crashes each year. An additional 20 to 50 million are injured or permanently disabled.  Despite these staggering statistics, the impact of road traffic crashes is often overlooked as a serious disease burden.  And if no action is taken, the numbers are expected to only get worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2030, road traffic injuries (RTIs) will have become the 5th leading cause of death worldwide (up from their current 9th position). Moreover, in low- and middle-income countries, the rate of RTIs is twice as high as in developed nations. The economic losses associated with road traffic deaths are just as devastating, costing low- and middle-income countries an estimated $100 billion every year.

On April 18, as part of the effort to draw attention to the growing burden of road traffic injuries, the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will launch Public Health Burden of Road Traffic Injuries: An Assessment from Ten Low- and Middle-Income Countries, a special issue of Traffic Injury Prevention. The launch will coincide with a noon seminar at the Bloomberg School in Baltimore, which features panelists from the World Health Organization and the Global Road Safety Partnership.

The JH-IIRU is dedicated to reducing those rates of road traffic injuries around the world. Led by Adnan A. Hyder, MD, PhD, MPH, in 2010, JH-IIRU joined a consortium of six partners, including the World Health Organization, the Global Road Safety Partnership, the Association for Safe International Road Travel, EMBARQ and the World Bank to evaluate and implement road safety solutions in 10 countries that account for nearly half (48%) of all traffic deaths globally. Dubbed the Road Safety in 10 Countries project (RS-10), this five-year undertaking is generously funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, making it the largest international road safety initiative to date.

The goal of RS-10 is to save lives by providing evidence for stronger road safety interventions around the world.  But Hyder and his team recognize that a greater awareness of the impact of road traffic injuries is key to getting decision makers and policymakers involved. This landmark publication, which includes 11 scientific papers jointly authored with 50 colleagues from JH-IIRU and their in-country collaborators, as well as the WHO, highlights new and aggregate data collected and analyzed in the 10 participating countries during the first two years of the RS-10 project. The papers range from investigating the rising trend of pedestrian and motorcycle passenger mortality in Brazil to examining the projected economic impact of the RS-10 project to reviewing national data sources of road traffic injuries in China.

Margie Peden, PhD, BScMed, BSc, coordinator of Unintentional Injury Prevention in the Department of Violence, Injury Prevention and Disability at the World Health Organization, stresses the importance of the work being done. “This type of monitoring and evaluating data from RS-10 project countries will provide essential evidence from low- and middle-income countries on what works and how many lives can be saved.”

“This issue shows that despite data limitations it is still possible to make observations of the status of road safety in many countries,” said David Bishai, MD, PhD, MPH, the team’s senior technical advisor and co-author of several of the papers. The team hopes that the RS-10 Project will serve as a foundation for future work, not only in the 10 participating countries, but for road safety research yet to come.

“We are especially thankful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for their generous support.” Hyder said. “The growing body of evidence on the burden and distribution of road traffic injuries will help develop policies and solutions that are proven effective in saving lives. Without this crucial funding, the important work of the RS-10 project would not be possible, and we hope to continue this partnership well into the future.”

While road safety issues have recently begun garnering more attention, much more work is needed. This special issue brings to light the under-recognized burden of road traffic injuries even as it represents important strides in road safety research.

To access the special issue, visit the Traffic Injury Prevention website at http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/gcpi20/current.