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Mean Streets

The Global Traffic Death Crisis

Unsafe at any speed: a traffic jam in New Delhi, January 2008 Thomas Munita / The New York Times

Some causes of death have little trouble catching the public’s attention. Avian flu, Ebola, and Zika have dominated news cycles and prompted international travel advisories. Plane crashes interrupt broadcasts and lead to thorough government investigations. Cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS now attract billions of dollars of research. But one of the biggest killers of all gets little attention from governments, the media, or the general public. Car crashes killed 1.35 million people in 2016—the last year for which World Health Organization data are available—a grisly 3,698 deaths a day. Traffic injuries are now the top killer of people aged five to 29 globally, outpacing any illness and exceeding the combined annual casualties of all of the world’s armed conflicts. And the toll continues to rise: it grew by 100,000 in just three years, from 2013 to 2016. This does not include the up to 50 million people who are hit and injured by

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