World road safety: Africa, the Maghreb and the middle east as a case study

Improving road safety is a prerequisite. Globally, road accidents claim the lives of 1.3 million people and cause the injuries of nearly another 50 million every year, standing as one of the leading causes of death, especially among young people aged between 15 and 29 years.
Medina Road, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo credit: Ammar Shaker

It is a real scourge that could by 2030 become the fifth leading cause of world mortality with 2.4 million deaths per year.

Mindful of this calamity, developed countries have managed thanks to preventive programs and restrictive measures to improve their safety record. With 90% of deaths, low-income countries continue, however, to top the list in terms of mortality rate.

Road safety: Satisfactory toll in the developed countries

With more than half of the global car fleet, developed countries account for just 8.5% of deaths, with a mortality rate below 10 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants.

Since the peak of 18 000 deaths reported in 1972, France has managed to divide by five its road mortality. In 2012, the country reported 3 645 people killed on the roads compared to 3 963 in 2011, that is a decrease of 8%. This improvement is accounted for by a strict and effective road safety policy. Driving under the influence of alcohol remains the major cause of 31.6% of accidents.

In 2012, Japan managed for the third consecutive year to substantially improve its road safety. The number of deaths on Japanese roads fell by 5.4% to reach 4 411 compared to 4 663 in 2011 and 4 922 in 2010. Road mortality rate per 100 000 inhabitants has stabilized at 3.45 in 2012 against 3.86 in 2010.

In other developed countries, the trend was reversed in 2011 with a significant increase in the number of deaths noted in Russia (+5%), Germany (+10%), Great Britain (+3%), Sweden (+25%) and Belgium (+2%).

Road safety in the Maghreb: slight improvement in Algeria and Morocco

Despite a slight improvement in some key indicators in Morocco and Algeria, the Maghreb countries are still suffering the consequences of a serious road insecurity. With a fleet of nearly 3 million vehicles, Moroccan roads are among the deadliest in the region. Deaths per 100 000 inhabitants are 14 times higher than in France, 23 times as high as in Sweden and 17 times as high as in Spain.

In Algeria, the significant decrease in the number of deaths (-3.28%) in 2012 did not conceal some shortcomings for other indicators. According to official statistics, the death rate per 100 000 inhabitants is 12.35.

No significant improvement is reported in the other Maghreb countries where Tunisia reported a 9.2% increase in deaths between 2011 and 2012. The situation is no better in Mauritania or Libya, either.

Road safety in the Arab countries: ever-increasing mortality rate

Arab countries, especially those of the Gulf, are reporting high road mortality, despite modern infrastructure. There are approximately 40 000 annual deaths in this region, 60% of which are caused to young people aged between 16 and 36 years.

In Saudi Arabia, nearly 7 000 people die each year on the roads. The minister of health reveals that more than 30% of hospital beds are occupied by road injures persons.

Excluding the Arabian Peninsula, there is a slight improvement of road safety in Lebanon in 2011.

The number of accidents has decreased by almost 3%, mortality by 7.4% and the number of casualties by 7.1%.

According to the website "", the highest mortality rates of the region in 2011 are reported in Iraq with 44.75 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Yemen with 37.28 and Jordan with 32.28.

Road safety in sub-Saharan Africa: critical situation

The entire African continent reports annually 10 billion USD of economic losses and 322 000 deaths due to road accidents. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists account for more than half of those killed.
This dramatic situation can be explained by:

  • the absence of clear programs designed to combat this road accidents
  • the massive importation of dilapidated vehicles
  • the poor status of roads and the lack of infrastructure
  • the overloaded vehicles
  • the poor maintenance of vehicles

In South Africa, road crashes account for 11 000 deaths on average per year. A calamity whose economic consequences, social costs and health care costs amount to 33.6 billion USD, that is 10% of the country’s GDP. Most accidents in South Africa are due to speeding and alcohol consumption. Strained by this serious challenge, repressive measures are planned to halve the number of accidents in seven years.

In Cameroon, more than 1 200 people die annually at a cost of 100 million USD for the country's economy while Nigeria counts, for its part, 5000 annual deaths.

The site "" has revealed that 60% of the countries having the world’s highest mortality rates are African. Namibia is leading the world ranking with 53.4 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, followed by Swaziland with a rate of 48.2 and Malawi with 45.4. This ranking also includes Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia, Uganda, etc

Population, vehicles, accidents, injuries, deaths and mortality rate per road accident in 2011

PopulationNb of vehicles
(in millions)
Accidents 2011Injured 2011Deaths 2011Deaths 2012Cost of accidents*Mortality rate
per 100 000
62 500 00034.2203 95023 1221 901ND243.04
128 000 00083NANA4 6634 411NA3.44
81 800 00043306 266392 3654 009NANA4.90
65 281 00038NA75 6363 9633 64515.55.58
11 000 0006.847 92463 660858NANA7.80
35 980 0006.242 47769 1414 5984 447NA12.35
32 273 000367 517101 1084 2224 0551.3312.56
10 673 0001.59 33914 1341 4851 623NA15.20
7 890 000NA6 7007 808720NANA9.12
4 259 0001.44 4476 050508NANA11.92
Saudi Arabia
28 082 00013NA38 0006 485NA6.9423.09
3 295 0000.87 71911 4371 056NANA32
South Africa
50 586 7579.111 228NA13 954NA33.6527.58
NA: Non available * In billions USD Sources : National statistics published by official organisation 2 The number of accidents, injuries, deaths and the mortality rate are those of 2012 3 2% of GDP 4 4% of GDP 5 10% of GDP
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