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Infrastructure boom offers fresh start on Asian road safety

Human and economic toll 'staggering' in low and middle-income countries

| China
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A car drives along a road in the Altyn-Emel national park in Almaty region, Kazakhstan.   © Reuters

It might be the world's deadliest, least known conflict. The latest available figures from the World Health Organization show that road accidents claimed at least 1.25 million lives in 2013, more than twice the death toll from the war in Syria. Nor is the carnage confined to far-off lands. It is happening in countries from America to Australia, and increasingly, in developing Asia.

Road safety is a local challenge with global public health and development implications. Around the world, deaths from road traffic exceed malaria and HIV-related illnesses. As the leading killer of young people, road crashes push households into poverty and strain national healthcare systems, according to the WHO's 2015 global status report on road safety. In India, for example, an estimated 10-30% of hospital admissions stem from road injuries, despite a relatively low rate of motorization. In Thailand, home to Asia's deadliest roads, an estimated 24,000 people die every year, second only to Libya worldwide, according to the WHO.

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