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A Global Geography of Death on the Road

A new World Health Organization interactive shows where laws are protecting drivers, cyclists, and walkers—and where they’re not.

A Global Geography of Death on the Road

A new World Health Organization interactive shows where laws are protecting drivers, cyclists, and walkers—and where they’re not.
An accident in Iran, which has one of the highest traffic death rates in the world.
An accident in Iran, which has one of the highest traffic death rates in the world. Wikimedia Commons/Mehdi
An accident in Iran, which has one of the highest traffic death rates in the world.
Wikimedia Commons/Mehdi

Earlier this month, CityLab’s Richard Florida broke down yet another of America’s disturbing geographical divides: states that experience high numbers of traffic fatalities, and states that don’t.

Now, from the World Health Organization, comes this year’s report on the state of road deaths worldwide. Using data from each participating country’s own transportation administrators, WHO concludes that about 1.25 million people died on the world’s roads in 2013. At roughly 0.018 percent of the Earth’s entire population, this sounds like a small number, but road traffic is the world’s leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 29.

What’s more tragic is that many of these deaths are preventable. In high-income countries, policy and law changes and vehicle safety improvements have kept traffic death rates relatively low. But rates in low- and middle-income countries are more than double those of more developed countries. The chart below shows that Africa’s road death rate is now double Europe’s, in part because so many pedestrians and cyclists are killed by vehicles on that continent. Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific (including countries like China, Vietnam, Australia and Malaysia) are even more dangerous for drivers, bikers and walkers.

relates to A Global Geography of Death on the Road

How does your country fare? The map below, also from the WHO, shows the data in interactive form. You can explore the world through the lens of helmet laws (these are good, the organization says, when countries require motorcyclists to wear high-quality ones), pedestrian deaths (stay out of South Africa), speed limits, and many others. Another tab will allow you to watch as a clock counts down to the world’s next road death. As of writing, there have been 2,266​ today.