Rapid desk-based study: The economic impact of road traffic accidents and injuries in developing countries


This study has identified the evidence that exists on the economic impact of road traffic accidents and injuries on developing countries; it has also indicated the gaps in this evidence. The research included the assessment of whether road safety is of macroeconomic significance and has indicated what the strategies and countermeasures are that can be implemented to hasten the reduction of road traffic accidents and the associated economic losses.

The study identified that poor crash and injury data collection in conjunction with inconsistencies in crash costing efforts across countries mean that identifying the macro impacts of crashes with real precision is not currently possible.

Conservative estimates put the global burden of crash costs as being at least 1% of total GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but this is most likely much higher. Extrapolation from High Income Country (HIC) estimates of crash costs indicate that the costs could be as high as 5% for Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), but these estimates are based on untested assumptions. Losses due to poor safety are accepted to be very significant and to warrant greater funding and investment than they currently receive.

The problem of poor data and information, particularly for LMICs, means that it is not possible to estimate clear patterns between country development levels and the over-all economic burden of road crashes empirically. It is possible that the economic losses due to crashes may increase proportionately, as countries develop from low to middle income and then fall as countries become HICs. This is based on the assumption that costs of crashes and injuries are proportionate to GDP/Capita and also on a range of very simplified assumptions concerning increases in motorisation rates and changes in safety levels as countries develop.

Economic development and increasing motorisation will lead to higher accident rates with higher road deaths but the number of annual road fatalities begins to decrease with economic development when motorisation rates slow, but also, fatalities per vehicle decrease as a result of organised and active management and investment in road safety measures.

There are a wide range of measures (spanning legislation, enforcement, engineering (roads and vehicles), education and post-crash response) which can be implemented to reduce the impact of road safety. However these measures have primarily been developed for HIC road conditions and there is concern that many strategies may not work as expected in LMIC conditions. Poor data and detail on the occurrence of crashes in many LMICs has prevented evaluation of individual countermeasures, and made assessing the effectiveness of larger programmes difficult. This lack of information on the effectiveness has led to uncertainty about how to best tackle the problem of road safety in LMICs.

Key research priorities that would contribute significantly to the gaps in the current knowledge base have been identified and described.

This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by HTSPE Limited and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Fletcher, J. Rapid desk-based study: The economic impact of road traffic accidents and injuries in developing countries. Evidence on Demand, UK (2014) iv + 28 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_hd.june2014.fletcher]

Rapid desk-based study: The economic impact of road traffic accidents and injuries in developing countries

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