Heonji Kim

Sep 18, 2020

How could COVID-19 affect road deaths worldwide?

Governments across the world have advised their citizens to ‘social distance’ and ‘stay-at-home’, which has helped flatten the curve of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak – but it’s also affected other areas of life.1 Road traffic is one area that has seen a dramatic decrease in many countries around the world.2

However, how likely is it for the significant decrease in the number of road users to see a correlating reduction in road-related mortalities?

To gain a measure of comparison, we’ve recorded the number of road-related mortalities that occurred in a year for 15 different countries.

We selected two countries for each continent (except Antarctica) that had the highest fatalities per 100,000 people, according to the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. For Europe, Africa and Asia, we chose three countries that had the highest fatalities per 100,000 because they have more countries than other continents.

Road deaths worldwide pre-COVID-19

Sources 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
The population has been noted according to a live population tracker. This information was accurate as of 11 June 2020. Source: Worldometer. (2020). Current world population. Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/. Accessed 11 June 2020. The number of vehicles have been noted according to WHO. This information was accurate as of 11 June 2020. Source: World Health Organisation. (2018). Death on the roads: Based on the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. Retrieved from https://extranet.who.int/roadsafety/death-on-the-roads/#deaths. Accessed 11 June 2020.

Will COVID-19 affect road mortality figures?

Consider the following:

 

 

While most countries are waiting to release data at the beginning of 2021, Australia’s monthly reports have already seen a drop in road-related mortalities. In fact, there were 1,105 mortalities in the year ending June 2020. While there are only 91 less mortalities than the previous year (1,196 mortalities), it’s the lowest it’s ever been in 10 years.9

That’s to say, the road mortality rate could, theoretically, be much lower for other countries as well. However, several factors will affect this.

What factors will influence the potential number of lives saved?

Stay at home restrictions

One of the leading factors that may impact traffic volume is the degree of ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions that governments have implemented throughout the world. Although the stringency and length of time these restrictions are in force varies from country to country, if all motorists comply with the restrictions, there could be a considerable decrease in traffic and also, potentially, the number of lives lost.

To gain an idea of just how stringent these restrictions are, we’ve laid out the severity of this restriction as well as any other specific curfews or free movement bans. The four categories in which the countries were grouped into regarding the stay-at-home restrictions include:

  • No measures,
  • Recommended not to leave the house,
  • Required not to leave the house (except for essential trips, such as daily exercise, grocery shopping, etc.) and
  • Required not to leave the house (minimal exceptions – only allowed to leave every few days, or only one person is allowed to leave at a time, etc.).

Most of the countries included in the following guide have had varying levels of restrictions within each region, province or state. However, the following guide has generalised these restrictions to a nationwide level.

The guide below provides a comparison of various stay-at-home, curfew and free movement restrictions from the period 1 March to 11 June:

United States

Required (except essentials): 15 March – 11 June

 

Mexico

Required (except essentials): 30 March – 11 June

Curfews and movement restrictions,9 which are determined on a state-by-state basis. The government established a ‘traffic light’ system with four colours to indicate what level of activities are allowed.15

 

Russia

Required (except essentials): 5 March – 29 March
Required (minimal exceptions): 30 March – 31 May
Required (except essentials): 1 June – 11 June

Not allowed to travel more than 2km from your home unless you have a digital pass in Moscow and some regions. Cars may be confiscated.16

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Required (minimal exceptions): 20 March – 23 April
Required (except essentials): 24 April – 20 May

Movement restrictions and the state of emergency and state of disaster has been lifted.17

Ukraine

Recommended:16 March – 2 April
Required (except essentials): 3 April – 4 June
Recommended: 5 June – 11 June

Venezuela

Required (except essentials): 13 March – 11 June

Dominican Republic

Recommend: 17 March – 17 April
Required (except essentials): 18 April – 27 April
Required (minimal exceptions): 28 April – 17 May
Required (except essentials): 18 May – 11 June

Nationwide curfews between 7pm and 5am (Monday to Saturday); and 5pm to 5am (Sunday). Not allowed to leave home except to buy essential goods or access health care. All public transport was closed, but it has since resumed services at 30 per cent from 6am to 6pm.18

Thailand

Recommended: 21 March – 11 June

Curfew from 11pm to 3am throughout Thailand; some regions are more strict.19

Vietnam

Required (except essentials): 1 April – 22 April

Movement restrictions (which vary between provinces). Penalties apply for non-compliance. Travelling from provinces that have confirmed cases of COVID-19 can result in quarantine costs. Non-essential travel to certain provinces are banned.20

Saudi Arabia

Required (except essentials): 23 March – 5 April
Required (minimal exceptions): 6 April – 31 May
Recommended: 1 June – 11 June

Curfews.21

Australia

Recommended: 24 March – 1 April
Required (except essentials): 2 April – 14 May
Recommended: 15 May – 28 May

New Zealand

Recommended 21 March – 22 March
Required (except essentials): 23 March – 13 May

Liberia

Required (except essentials): 21 March – 11 June

Zimbabwe

Recommended: 23 March – 29 March
Required (except essentials): 30 March – 4 June
Recommended: 5 June – 11 June

Burundi

No measures

Information regarding stay-at-home restrictions has been noted according to a global government policy response tracker. This information was accurate as of 11 June 2020. Source: Our World in Data. (2020). Statistics and Research: Policy responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/policy-responses-covid. Accessed 11 June 2020. All information was accurate as of 11 June 2020.

Some countries have been stricter than others with their stay-at-home restrictions. For example, in certain regions in Russia, travel has been limited to no more than 2km from your home unless you have a digital pass; non-compliance can lead to car confiscation.13

As aforementioned, with 85% of survey respondents reporting that they’ve self-isolated during the month of April, Russia would have seen a significant decrease in road traffic.

Protests

Events such as the Black Lives Matter protests, have seen worldwide protests to fight for human rights. This may have resulted in a temporary increase in the number of vehicles on roads.

Working towards decreasing the global mortality rate

Unfortunately, not all countries around the world have traffic laws and vehicle standards to increase safety and minimise the number of accidents. That’s to say, there’s a strong correlation between low road-related mortality rates and high vehicle standards and driving laws.4

The World Health Organisation stated that global road traffic deaths have continually risen in recent years.22 However, while the overall number of deaths have increased, the mortality rate relative to population size has stabilised, indicating that the overall global mortality rate has stagnated.22

That’s to say, 48 middle and high-income countries have contributed to the reduction of road deaths, according to a 2018 report. On the other hand, low-income countries have seen a continual rise in road mortality rates.22

This is largely due to a lack of basic laws and vehicle safety standards. By enforcing basic laws and vehicle safety standards low-income countries, the mortality rate will surely decrease. According to the World Health Organisation, the following laws are needed to improve drivers’ overall safety and decrease the road-related fatalities:

Good drink driving laws

Laws based on a BAC limit of no more than 0.05g/dL for the general population, and 0.02g/dL for young drivers.

Good speed laws

Laws that set a limit of no more than 50km/h in urban areas with local authorities who can modify national speed limits.

Good helmet laws

Laws that mandate that all riders, including passengers, should wear properly fastened helmets on all roads while any type of motorized vehicle in which their head is exposed.

Good seatbelt laws

Laws that mandate that everyone in a motorised vehicle wear seatbelts, including drivers, front-seat and back-seat passengers.

Good child restraint laws

Laws require all children who are younger than 10 or smaller than 135cm to use a child seat. Child restraints should be regulated, and children of a certain age or height cannot sit in the front-seat.

Good vehicle standards

Basic minimum standards for vehicle manufacture/assembly, including:

  • Protection against frontal impacts
  • Protection against side impacts
  • Electronic stability control system
  • Protecting pedestrians from impact by car
  • Seatbelt and seatbelt anchorages
  • Child restraint regulation
  • Motorcycle anti-lock braking system.
The World Health Organisation has recommended these standards and laws. Source: World Health Organisation. (2018). Death on the roads: Based on the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. Retrieved from https://extranet.who.int/roadsafety/death-on-the-roads/#deaths. Accessed 11 June 2020.

Most first-world countries have these fundamental laws and vehicle standards to keep drivers, passengers and pedestrians safe. However, many low-income countries do not, which is why the risk of a road-related mortality remains three-times higher in these countries.22 While these standards are basic requirements in some countries, many countries still consider these essential safety features as ‘add-ons’.4

With this in mind, if there is a decrease in road deaths in middle to low-income countries in 2020, it could largely be attributed to COVID-19 restrictions. In high-income countries, only a significant decrease would indicate that COVID-19 restrictions have affected road mortality rates.

Stay alert and drive safe

Stay safe during and after COVID-19 lockdowns by following the advice of your government. Follow traffic directions and refrain from speeding to keep yourself and those around you safe.

You may also want to consider life insurance. A life insurance policy can provide a lump sum payout to your beneficiaries in the event that you pass away, including in a traffic accident. This can be particularly helpful if you have family and dependents.

Find a life insurance policy today by using our life insurance comparison tool!

We do not compare all life insurers or products in the market. Any advice given is general and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances. Before you make any decisions about purchasing products, read the PDS for your product.
Sources
Sources
  1. A H M Belayeth Hussain. (2020). Do governments’ decisions on social distancing flatten out people’s mobility during COVID-19 pandemic?  Accessed 11 June 2020.
  2. Road Safety UAE. (2020). Press Release: COVID-19 Measures Dramatically Reduce Road Traffic and Congestion (TomTom Data April Week 1+2 2020 vs 2019).
  3. World Health Organisation. (2018). Death on the roads: Based on the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  4. U.S. Department of Transporation. (2019). Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2019 Accessed 10 June 2020.
  5. International Transport Forum. (2019). Road Safety Annual Report 2019. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  6. Anastasiya Pyankova. (2019). Road traffic mortality in Russia: Record linkage of police data and vital statistics. Accessed 10 June 2020
  7. World Health Organisation. (2020). 2018/2019 Road-traffic data for WHO European Region. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  8. Our World in Data. Road traffic deaths, 1990 to 2017. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  9. Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. (2020). Road deaths: 12 months total Australia June 2020. Accessed 20 July 2020.
  10. Ministry of Transport. (2019). Annual road deaths 2019 (provisional). Accessed 20 July 2020.
  11. Federal Highway Administration. (2020). Travel Monitoring: Traffic Volume Trends.Accessed 25 June 2020.
  12. Ipsos. (2020). Most of us are staying at home to stop spread of COVID-19, shows latest poll.  Accessed 14 July 2020.
  13. Newgate Australia. (2020). Australians support stronger action on COVID-19 as alarm grows and personal impacts emerge. Accessed 25 June 2020.
  14. Safe Graph. (2020). U.S. Geographic Responses to Shelter in Place Orders. Accessed 25 June 2020.
  15. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Mexico.  Accessed 11 June 2020.
  16. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Russia.  Accessed 11 June 2020.
  17. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Bosnia and Herzegovina. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  18. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Dominican Republic. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  19. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Thailand. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  20. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Vietnam. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  21. Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and Travel – Saudi Arabia. Accessed 11 June 2020.
  22. World Health Organisation. (2018). New WHO report highlights insufficient progress to tackle lack of safety on the world’s roads. Accessed 22 July 2020.