Road Traffic Injuries

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Notice about research

Giving What We Can no longer conducts our own research into charities and cause areas. Instead, we're relying on the work of organisations including J-PAL, GiveWell, and the Open Philanthropy Project, which are in a better position to provide more comprehensive research coverage.

These research reports represent our thinking as of late 2016, and much of the information will be relevant for making decisions about how to donate as effectively as possible. However we are not updating them and the information may therefore be out of date.

Impact Summary

  • Importance: 2.5/5
  • Tractability: 2/5
  • Neglectedness: 2.5/5

Fast Facts

  • Road traffic injuries kill more people each year than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed in a decade.
  • The death toll is likely to increase as quality road safety infrastructure fails to keep pace with expanding motorisation in low and middle income countries.
  • Interventions targeting the enforcement of speed limits may potentially avert a DALY for less than $10.

Most people are probably unaware of the sheer scale of the devastation caused by road traffic injuries (RTIs). They kill 1.33 million people every year, making them the eighth biggest killer in the world: more than tuberculosis and more than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed in a decade. The death toll is likely to increase as quality road safety infrastructure fails to keep pace with expanding motorisation in low and middle income countries. Road deaths are projected to overtake HIV/AIDS as a global killer by 2030.

Some sources suggest that certain road safety interventions are highly cost-effective. For example, the Disease Control Priorities 2 (DCP2) report says that enforcement of speed limits can save a Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) for less than $10. If road safety charities could match this level of cost-effectiveness, then they would be more cost-effective than the charities we recommend at present. However, there are good reasons to be very cautious around these figures. Other academic studies by World Health Organisation (WHO) CHOICE and the John Hopkins International Injury Research Unit suggest that road safety charities may be much less cost-effective.

Most importantly, the data on cost-effective road safety interventions appears to be very limited at present. We should be very cautious around all current estimates and consequently be sceptical about the claim that road safety interventions are superior to our currently recommended charities.

There are relatively few charities working in the area and those that do are quite young. There are three charities which we suggest assessing again in a few years. The International Road Assessment Program (iRap) appears to provide very useful information for governments. However, they do not presently offer any cost-effectiveness estimates of their own work. Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, which operates in Asia, and Amend, which operates in Africa, both appear to focus on cost-effectiveness and themselves appear to be attempting to add to the body of knowledge on road safety. They would both certainly be worth returning to in a few years’ time on completion of their cost-effectiveness assessments. However, at present we cannot recommend any existing road safety charities.