Improving road safety and reducing traffic-related injuries and fatalities should be an urgent priority everywhere around the globe. A quick look at the statistics relating to traffic safety will tell you why.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.2 million people die in traffic-related accidents worldwide every year, making driving-related injuries the ninth leading cause of preventable death globally. They are also the leading cause of death for young people, ages 15 to 29. And it’s not only automobile drivers and their passengers who are injured. According to the WHO report, approximately half of all road-related fatalities are so-called “vulnerable road users”—pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. In addition to the high number of deaths, up to 50 million people sustain non-fatal injuries each year in traffic accidents. The WHO predicts that if current trends continue, by 2030, driving accidents will become the seventh most common cause of fatalities worldwide “unless urgent action is taken.”1

In many parts of the world, including the U.S., much progress has been made in raising awareness about the need for safe and sober driving. We see efforts along these lines daily in the U.S., where public service ads that warn about the dangers of speeding, and of texting or drinking while driving, are ubiquitous, as are warnings from organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD). Nevertheless, there are still more than 30,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. every year.2 In some countries outside the U.S., the situation is better; in others, worse. But all can improve.

Road Safety around the Globe

When measured by annual road-related fatalities in countries with populations of 1 million or greater, road safety varies widely. When looked at by geographical region, Europe has the safest roads, with a collective 9.3 traffic fatalities per 100,000, and the Americas (North and South) are second, at 15.9. Roads in Africa are currently the least safe, with 26.6 deaths per 100,000 (far above the global rate of 17.4).1

Each region and country has its own challenges in making its roads safer. As already noted, in the U.S., we continue to battle against traditional problems such as drivers taking to the road after too many drinks. More recently, the challenge has been our preoccupation with digital devices distracting us while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver distraction due to the use of digital communications devices led to more than 3,000 deaths and over 430,000 injuries in the U.S. in 2014. NHTSA data also shows that drivers aged 15-19 accounted for the “largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.”3  Citing a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute finding, the FCC notes that if you text while driving, you are 23 times as likely to be involved in an accident.4

AIG’s Commitment to Enhancing Road Safety

AIG is committed to helping to improve road safety. In fact, AIG cofounded Together for Safer Roads, a private-sector coalition that assembles global private sector companies, across industries, to collaborate on improving road safety. The coalition brings together members’ knowledge, data, technology, and global networks to focus on five areas that will make the greatest impact globally and within local communities.5  The coalition’s expert panel recently published a whitepaper called  “Investing in Road Safety: A Global Imperative for the Private Sector” and the coalition also published a best practice report to help companies improve the safety of their fleets.

AIG recently partnered with Europcar Ireland for a pilot project to determine if a “smoother” driver is a safer driver and if we could incentivize safer driving behavior. By using data from telematics devices on Europcar Ireland’s fleet, AIG was able to analyze speed, harsh acceleration and braking, and cornering speed of its rental cars, and then provide renters with a smooth-driving score. The study determined that high smooth-driving scores were linked to fewer accidents. These innovative technologies and applications allow AIG to provide new data-driven insights that could help further improve the safety of our clients.

AIG has also worked to increase road safety for children in the developing world. Thailand ranks third in the world for traffic fatalities, and only an estimated seven percent of children wear a helmet when riding on a motorcycle. To help increase youth safety and prevent traffic fatalities, AIG contributed to Thailand’s Head Awareness Governor event, where we helped distribute more than 2,500 helmets to students.

A Global Problem

It will take the concerted efforts of governments and the private sector working together in countries around the world to make the world’s roads safer. Fortunately, the basic rules we need to follow for safe driving are simple and well-known:

  • Buckle up.
  • Use car seats.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Slow down, and yield to pedestrians.

Unfortunately, turning knowledge into habits is never easy.  But this is an effort worth making—for everyone’s sake.