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 motor vehicles each year, some grievously, but who nonetheless survive. The economic losses are estimated at three percent of global GDP.

In many high-income countries, the per capita traffic death rate has dropped over the last 50 years, in part thanks to advances in car safety and stricter drunk-driving laws. In

To read the full article

  • JANETTE SADIK-KHAN is a Principal at Bloomberg Associates. From 2007 to 2013, she was Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.
  • SETH SOLOMONOW is a Manager at Bloomberg Associates. From 2007 to 2013, he was Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs at the New York City Department of Transportation.
  • They are the authors of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.
  • More By Janette Sadik-Khan
  • More By Seth Solomonow