It was about five years ago that I humbly suggested we spend less money on AIDS research and instead spend those limited resources on ideas to reduce traffic fatalities. My argument was that traffic mishaps were often preventable and that on a greater scale, traffic accidents claim more victims than most diseases combined.
Guess what? I was right.
The World Health Organization now wants the World Bank to fund traffic improvement projects at the same pace they fund disease control. WHO knows that 400,000 traffic deaths each year worldwide is as important if not more important than billions spent to control disease. It's about time!
If 400,000 people were dying each year in a war, the world would organize and mobilize in the face of such a tragedy. We would dedicate billions upon hundreds of billions of dollars to reduce the deaths. But highway fatalities have almost become commonplace. We're saddened when we hear of a traffic death and we mourn the tragedy. But when you consider that 400,000 are killed each and every year on the roadways, it seems we need to declare an all-out program to reduce these massive numbers.
The cost - strictly in financial terms - for the high number of road mishaps is staggering. It's estimated that worldwide, over $500 billion is spent annually in medical care, disabilities and property damage from roadway accidents. That is a drain on world economies that has no parallel.
We try all sorts of solutions from seat belts to speed limits to greater law enforcement presence. But there's more to be done. And given this massive toll on our population, it's time we take some action in a big way.
Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among our 10-24-year-old population. These young people are just beginning what are hopefully productive lives. But they are cut short in a tragic way.
The numbers alone should tell the tale. Consider 400,000 lives lost each year and over $500 billion spent in the aftermath of traffic accidents. Doesn't that say we need to increase spending and other resources in an area of greatest concern?
It certainly does to me.