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Deaths on the Rise in Addis Ababa, but Pragmatic, Best Practice Solutions Exist

New York, USA – Officials in Ethiopia’s capital city today released the findings of a detailed study on the burden of its road crash deaths. In a press conference headlined by Mayor Diriba Kuma, and other city leaders, data from the first annual Road Safety in Addis Ababa Status Report was presented at a meeting of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety partners. Among the key findings:

• In 2016, 463 road crash fatalities occurred in Addis Ababa, which is roughly 13.8 deaths per 100,000 people. While fatalities are increasing, given the rapid urbanization and growth of the city’s population, this rate remains relatively steady, though significant underreporting is likely;

• Pedestrians accounted for 80 percent of all road deaths, a number due in large part to the fact that just 14 percent of city roads were rated acceptable for pedestrian safety, as well as the high prevalence of risky driver behavior, mainly speeding and drink driving;

• An overwhelming number of crashes (99.2 percent) involve male drivers, with the highest proportion of fatal crashes involving public taxis (23 percent) and 26 percent of fatal crashes involving drivers with less than two years of driving experience; and

• As of July 2016, 5.9 percent of drivers stopped at sobriety checkpoints had a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit, only one in three motorcycle riders wore helmets correctly, seatbelt use was very low among private vehicle passengers, and 40 percent of vehicles were observed to be driving above the speed limit.

The data in the report comes from three principle sources: observational surveys conducted by Johns Hopkins University, assessments made by the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), and crash data from the Addis Ababa Police Commission.  

“Road trauma represents nothing less than a public health crisis on the city’s roads,” said Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma. “A systematic, ongoing response is required to stabilize, reduce and ultimately eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. Road trauma is not inevitable. It can and must be prevented.”

As one of the 10 cities participating in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety, Addis Ababa is working with international partners to enact measurable remedies to the city’s crash burden. City leaders also unveiled a 13-year Road Safety Strategy today that outlines several steps to be taken to make Addis Ababa safer, particularly for pedestrians. These interventions include reduced speed limits in areas of high pedestrian activity, improved road design, greater enforcement of traffic laws and increased penalties for violators, hard-hitting mass media campaigns and stricter licensing requirements for commercial vehicle operators.

According to José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, “Poor street design and dangerous road behaviors, especially speeding and drink driving, continue to create an unsafe environment on Addis Ababa’s roads. This is particularly true for pedestrians, who make up an overwhelming share of road crash victims in a city where walking is still the most common form of transportation. This new report identifies several areas that need significant improvement, and we’re encouraged by the city’s commitment to addressing these concerns through the proactive road safety measures it is undertaking. This epidemic won’t be solved overnight, but slow, steady and determined progress is possible as long as the commitment to these remedies remains steadfast.”

“Millions of road traffic fatalities and injuries can be prevented through stronger laws, more effective enforcement and better infrastructure. In our experience working on road safety with 10 cities across Latin America, Africa, and Asia , we know that these measures save lives and make cities safer places to work and live,” said Dr. Kelly Henning, Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health Program Director.  

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global public health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.