Why are so many young people involved in road traffic crashes?

Online Q&A
September 2012

Q: Why are so many young people involved in road traffic crashes?

A: Young road users are at risk for road traffic injuries for a number of reasons:

  • roads are planned without sufficient consideration of their specific needs;
  • their physical and developmental characteristics (for example, the small size of children) increase their risk;
  • risk taking behaviour and peer pressure, particularly among adolescents; and
  • other risk factors such as speeding, drink-driving, not using helmets or not wearing seat-belts.

Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24 years. Each year nearly 400 000 people under 25 die on the world’s roads – an average of 1049 a day. Most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and among vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and those using public transport.

Road traffic injuries can be prevented. A number of targeted interventions have proved to be effective in addressing these risk factors and reducing road traffic injuries among young people. These interventions include separating different types of road users, reducing speed, lower blood alcohol limits and graduated driver licensing schemes for novice drivers. These are discussed in detail in a new document called "Youth and Road Safety" published by WHO on the occasion of the First United Nations Global Road Safety Week (23-29 April 2007). The main global event for the Week was the World Youth Assembly for Road Safety at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. More than 100 young "ambassadors" met to discuss road safety and adopt a Youth Declaration for Road Safety.

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