The socioeconomic impact of life years lost from road traffic accidents with child victims across eight countries is $21.8 billion a year, according to a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), with traffic accidents involving children posing a particularly grave public health issue for developing countries.
Applying best practice to improve road infrastructure, educational campaigns aimed at children and the community, regulation and the application of sanctions could save an estimated 1,342 children’s lives a year across those eight countries, the report argues. This equates to a reduction of five per cent in and ten per cent in high-income and low-middle income countries respectively, or an annual $1b in the overall socioeconomic costs as a result of road traffic accidents.
The research, by Dr Alexander Grous from LSE's Department of Media and Communications, is one of the most extensive assessments of child road accidents undertaken to date. Commissioned by the Abertis Foundation - a member of the United Nations Collaboration Group for Road Safety - in partnership with UNICEF, and launched in Madrid by HM Queen Letizia of Spain, it provides the first socioeconomic costs in eight countries – France (Socioeconomic impact: $1.9 bn), Spain ($776 m), Italy ($1.3 bn), Chile ($560 m), Brazil ($6.8 bn), Argentina ($4 bn), Puerto-Rico ($519 m) and India ($5.8 bn).
The study provides light on the impact that traffic accidents with victims aged 0 to 17 have on the economy and society, while identifying opportunities to reduce mortality rates in countries with different levels of wealth.
Pic left to right: HM Queen Letizia of Spain, Gustavo Súarez Pertierra and Alexander Grous.
Dr Alexander Grous said: “Traffic accidents are the leading cause of child deaths of children over 10 years old throughout the world and a major public health problem in developing countries, where injuries caused by them cause more than 90% of all deaths. In the poorest countries, children with serious injuries and disabilities caused by traffic accidents often push their families into poverty as they are forced to spend their savings, sell their property or quit their jobs in order to look after them.
“This research examines the costs of medical and psychological care, rehabilitation and care of children, and our findings confirm that the effects from fatalities, serious injuries and disabilities ‘ripple’ wide into the community and beyond. To improve road safety for children, a multi-pronged approach to improve education, infrastructure improvements and regulation is essential.”
Sergi Loughney, Director of the Abertis Foundation, hailed the report as providing companies in the infrastructure industry with “a ground-breaking insight into what needs to be done to protect vulnerable children and families from road traffic accidents.”
The President of the Spanish UNICEF Committee, Gustavo Súarez Pertierra, highlighted the importance of this report in the context of UNICEF’s work around prevention, saying: “As a result of traffic, millions of children are being deprived of their rights to education and health. We have to work together to prevent road accidents and mitigate the severity of their consequences for children and their families by providing safe routes to school and effective road safety practices.”
The study goes beyond the scope of much of the existing research on child road accidents as it also includes analysis of their psychological impact of child accidents on child mental health in addition to the impact of fatalities and serious injuries on the psychological state of other family members, where the cost of child accidents is often likely to be underestimated.
It also incorporates four commonly utilised categories: medical expenses, property damage, administrative fees, and production costs to calculate the total figures. These costs capture the impact that traffic accidents have on the community and the economy by encompassing medical treatment (both immediate and longer term); the damage to vehicles and infrastructure; the administrative costs that are generated for an accident encompassing insurance, Police attendance; the loss of income and productive earning capability.
The data shows that fatalities do not appear to be correlated to vehicle density: countries with high vehicle density, such as Italy, Spain, France and Puerto Rico, do not have higher fatality rates than countries with low vehicle density, such as India. The four countries with the lowest vehicle density – India, Chile, Argentina and Brazil– display the four highest rates of traffic accidents.
Download ‘The Impact of Road Traffic Accidents with Child Victims’