Road deaths and injuries are holding back economic growth in developing countries such as Kenya, according to a new World Bank survey.
The study estimates that unabated traffic fatalities in poor countries could reduce productivity per person by between seven and 22 per cent in the next 24 years.
This, the global lender says, would be a big blow to these economies, which are still trying to find their feet.
Dubbed The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable, the study attributes the likely outcome to the fact that traffic fatalities in these countries strike prime working-age adults who are critical players in turning the wheels of the economy.
The report notes that more people in developing countries have acquired motor vehicles as a result of increased incomes, resulting in rapid motorisation.
Road safety regulations and management, however, have not kept pace with this revolution.
Failure by countries to invest in road safety, estimates the report, could see them miss out on anywhere between seven and 22 per cent in potential per capita GDP growth over a 24-year period.
“Reducing road traffic injuries in half could translate into an additional 15 per cent to 22 per cent of GDP per capita income growth over 24 years,” says the report, noting that this would basically mean failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal target to halve road deaths by 2020.
“This is the cost of inaction, which accrues to about 2-3 per cent points in unrealised per capita GDP growth for low and middle-income countries.”
The study, whose data set was collected from 135 countries over a period of 24 years between 1990 and 2014, also found that road safety interventions improve welfare benefits to the society.
Tanzania, the country picked by the World Bank as a case study for sub-Saharan Africa, could make welfare gains ranging between $5,000 (Sh515, 000) and $80,000 (Sh8, 240,000) by preventing death and injury and road through safety interventions. This, says the report, is not much different from other sub-Saharan African countries.
The report’s findings come at a time when increased fatalities on Kenyan roads have triggered a major public outcry, with President Uhuru Kenyatta directing that the National Transport and Safety Authority pull its staff from roads. At least 30 lives were recently lost and scores injured in one accident at Migaa area on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.