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Chapter 3 - The Current Situation

Chapter 3 - The Current Situation

3.1 Estimating Road Deaths in Africa

Previous global or regional reviews of road deaths undertaken by TRL, the World Bank and others have acknowledged the problems associated with data reliability and under reporting. That said, traditional reliance has always been on the use of officially published statistics based on police reports. This study describes the results from these official statistics and then makes a "best" estimate of the real totals using the described correction techniques.

The officially reported number of persons killed in road crashes in the different countries (for the latest year available) are shown in Table 3.1 on the following page. Data are available in most countries for years 1996 to 1998 but in a few such as Angola, Niger, Sudan and Liberia, the latest year was as far back as 1985. In some countries the reported deaths are very low, for example 22 in Chad, 43 in Gabon, 58 in Central African Republic. There may indeed be relatively few road deaths in these countries but it is much more likely that they are significantly under-reported.

Two countries alone account for almost fifty per cent of all reported deaths, namely South Africa and Nigeria. The South African value of over 9,000 appears to be consistent over time. For example, it was at about the same value in the mid 1980's. Nigeria on the other hand at 6,185 deaths is now showing a dramatic reduction from a high of over 9,200 just a few years ago. This recent figure must be treated with caution in that it is unlikely that a large amount of investment in road safety activities has taken place in recent years resulting in this dramatic reduction. Other countries also showing significant numbers of deaths include Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. The 42 country total of 35,394 deaths and the individual national totals are significant underestimates of the true totals.

To improve the estimate of the current fatality situation in Africa, four additional correction steps need to be undertaken. These are:

  1. Updating the fatality figure from the latest year available (which ranged from 1985 to 1998) to the year 2000.
  2. Estimating for those countries where fatality data was not available at all.
  3. Adjusting for the under-recording of fatalities by the police when the official database does not include all fatalities notified to the police.
  4. Adjusting for the non-reporting of fatalities by the public, i.e. where the police are not notified of the incident.

This correction process was developed as part of a global review undertaken by TRL for the GRSP (Jacobs et al, 2000) and the results for each stage are described in Appendix A.

3.1.1 Current fatality estimate for Sub-Saharan Africa

Based on the methodology described in Appendix A, a realistic estimate of total road deaths for the 42 African countries is between 68,500 and 82,200 for the year 2000. The calculations and totals are presented in Table 3.2.

3.1.2 Road crash injury estimate

Recent research by TRL has highlighted the extent of under-reporting of road deaths in the developing world (see earlier). However, it is also appreciated that the extent of under-reporting of serious and slight injuries from road crashes is even greater and that fatalities represent only the tip of the injury pyramid.

The recent GRSP "Estimating Global Fatalities" suggested a road injury: fatality ratio of 30-40 for low income countries (LIC's) (injuries implying medical treatment was required and/or loss of normal activity for at least one day). At present, police statistics report approximately 8.5 injuries for every road fatality and the estimate for the true likely injury burden is closer to 2.0 to 3.3 million, some 7-11 times that of the number of road injuries reported by the police.

3.1.3 Africa in Perspective

As stated previously, the methodology used was based on TRL's study undertaken for the GRSP which was a global review for the year 1999. Results from this study can be used to set Africa in the global perspective in terms of road deaths. The burden of road fatalities is on the developing world where 86 per cent of the world's road fatalities occur, with almost half of all fatalities in Asia. Figure 1 shows the regional distribution of 750,000 fatalities, the low end of the range estimated for 1999 (750,000-880,000).

From this it can be seen that about 10 per cent of global deaths occur in Africa which is slightly less than those for the entire developed world or for all of Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean.

The GRSP study can also be used to show the regional share of fatalities, population and motor vehicles world-wide (see Table 3.3)

Firstly it can be seen that whilst about 10 per cent of global road deaths took place in 1999 in Sub-Saharan Africa only 4 per cent of global vehicles are registered in the region. Conversely it can be seen that only 14 per cent of road deaths occurred in the entire developed world (North America, Western Europe, Australasia and Japan) yet this particular region contains 60 per cent of all globally registered vehicles.

3.2 Reported Fatality Rates and Risk

This section attempts to compare the 'seriousness' of the road crash situation in the different countries in the study. Two indicators are used as no single indicator accurately describes the overall road safety situation in a particular country. The most common method used in highly motorised countries is the number of injury crashes per million vehicle kilometres travelled per annum, (thus relating injury to a measure of exposure to traffic). However few of the countries in this study carry out annual traffic surveys which provide information on vehicle usage.

Instead, fatality rates, the number of reported fatalities per 10,000 licensed motor vehicles, are regularly used to compare the road safety records of developing countries. It should be borne in mind however that fatality rate may be of less importance within a specific country than the actual number of deaths taking place. Thus irrespective of the growth in traffic, a particular country should be more concerned at the rise (or possibly fall) in the actual numbers killed and injured.

Fatality risk, the reported number of deaths per 100,000 population is the indicator most commonly used by the health sector to prioritise diseases and other causes of death.

In this section therefore both fatality rates and fatality risks are presented. Clearly both are subject to error in that, as was discussed earlier, the level of under-reporting of road deaths is likely to be considerable in most African countries and also the level of accuracy in reporting national motor vehicle fleet sizes will vary widely.

Figures 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 to 3.5 show the fatality rates calculated for the different countries by region. It can be seen that the range is extremely wide with, for example Chad with a rate of 8 and Central African Republic (CAR) with over 270. Bearing in mind that these countries are on the same continent and of reasonably similar economic development, attitude and culture, such variation must cast serious doubt on the figures derived.

For example in the global review for the GRSP referred to earlier, rates for all the developed countries of Western Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan ranged from about 1.5 to 5 and for Eastern European nations ranged from 3 to 40. In the African examples cited above there are probably very many more road deaths than the 22 stated in the official publications for Chad and in the case of CAR there is probably a gross under-reporting of the number of vehicles in use (ie. many operating illegally and unlicensed).

However, the overall picture that emerges is that fatality rates in most African countries lie in the range 50 to 150. This compares with most Latin American countries which are in the range 10 to 35 or Asian -Pacific countries which are in the range 8 to 37 (results from the GRSP study). Thus whilst some figures are of dubious accuracy, it can be said that the highest fatality rates world-wide are to be found in Africa. Those countries with the highest (and believable) rates, all in excess of 100, include Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. To put these values in perspective the highest peacetime fatality rate recorded in Great Britain was 32 fatalities per 10,000 motor vehicles in 1930.

Fatality rates are shown in Figures 3.2 to 3.5 on a regional basis. The ranges found in West and Central African countries show the greatest variation with for example three countries in West Africa in excess of 120 and three countries below 20. The lowest rates were for the seven countries of South East Africa, ranging from Angola (10) to Lesotho (87).

Fatality risk levels appear to be more consistent, see Figures 3.6, 3.7, 3.8 to 3.9, with most countries in the range 2 to 10. Countries with particularly high fatality risk levels appear to be Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa all, interestingly located in Southern Africa. The region with (marginally) the lowest fatality risk levels is Central Africa, the region with the highest fatality rates.

3.3 Motorisation Levels

In this report, motorisation levels are expressed as the number of officially licensed vehicles per 1,000 population for the year 1996. Values derived range from as low as 0.7 for Central African Republic, Somalia, Mozambique to as high as 120 for South Africa (see Figures 3.10, 3.11, 3.12, 3.13). Vehicle ownership levels are likely to be closely correlated to national GNP/Capita levels and Central African Republic, Somalia and Mozambique are amongst the poorest countries of Africa. However it can be seen that the value for Ethiopia, also a very poor country is 1.5, twice that for those countries with the lowest reported vehicle levels. This may be because teams working in Ethiopia recently were able to obtain a more accurate value for vehicles licensed in that country.

From a regional point of view the highest vehicle ownership levels were to be found in southern Africa with values ranging from over 30 in Zimbabwe, 55 in Botswana,67 in Swaziland and 120 in South Africa. Next come the two West African countries of Gambia and Gabon with levels of about 17 and 29 respectively.

From a global perspective vehicle ownership levels throughout Sub-Saharan Africa are amongst some of the lowest. For example in western Europe most countries have 500 to 700 vehicles per 1,000 population, in Eastern Europe 100 to 300 and in Latin America 40 to 200. In Asia there is wide variation in vehicle ownership levels ranging from 5 vehicles/1,000 people in Bangladesh to over 500 in Brunei. However 60 per cent of countries were in the range 20 to 60 which is comparable with those calculated for the majority of African countries.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017