Traffic-related injuries and deaths pose a big risk to young people, study finds

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Experts say not enough is being done around the world to prevent fatal accidents

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales explored the risk that traffic injuries pose to young people. The findings suggest that young people have a high risk of being involved in traffic injury-related deaths, and the team says not much is being done to prevent these fatal accidents. 

“We’ve seen a high increase in the absolute number of injury-related deaths and (disability-adjusted life years), specifically in low- and low-middle income countries,” said researcher Dr. Amy Peden. “It indicates neglect for a growing population at risk of injury.”

Mortality risks for young people 

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study. The study included information on traffic-related injuries over the last three decades and from more than 200 countries. The team was most concerned with disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and deaths related to traffic injuries. 

The researchers learned that rates of traffic-related deaths among consumers between the ages of 10 and 24 differed in high-income and low-income countries. Traffic injury and death rates dropped 1.7% each year from 2010 to 2019; however, from 1999-2010, that figure was as high as 2.4% each year.  

“In high-income countries like Australia, there’s been a real decline in progress,” Dr. Peden said. “In the past 10 years, we’ve seen reductions in rates of road transport injury essentially stall, showing a lack of attention to the issue.

“Despite being the leading cause of death in adolescents globally, it’s been relatively neglected when you consider the strong action on other non-injury causes of death among adolescents.” 

Policy changes needed

The researchers explained that there are many public policy efforts that could be put in place to help enforce safety on the roads. This could include designing roadways to prioritize children’s health and safety, creating school zones, lowering the blood alcohol content level restrictions for new drivers, and changing the minimum drinking laws, among several other initiatives. 

“What we need now is the political will for change, backed by measurable action, financial support, and the right mechanisms to implement solutions, especially in communities where the burden of road traffic injuries is greatest,” said researcher Rebecca Ivers.  

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