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Study says traffic fatalities are biggest killers of young people

A UNSW study says road traffic incidents kill the most adolescents globally

A study from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney suggests transport-related incidents are the biggest killers of young people globally.

Instead of communicable and non-communicable diseases or self-harm, the new research says traffic-related fatalities and injuries are bigger killers of young people.

The findings were published in The Lancet Public Health and act as the first global analysis of transport and unintended injury-related morbidity and mortality of young peopled aged between 10 and 24.

The UNSW used data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2019 study and analysed deaths from transport and unintentional injuries in adolescents across 204 countries in the past three decades.

These results found that despite transport injury death rates falling by a third since 1990, the number of deaths attributed to road fatalities for adolescents increased in some countries.

“We’ve seen a high increase in the absolute number of injury-related deaths, specifically in low and low-middle income countries,” lead author Dr Amy Peden says.

“It indicates neglect for a growing population at risk of injury.”

The UNSW research says reductions in transport injury and death rates in high-income countries have slowed, dropping by only 1.7 per cent a year during 2010 and 2019 compared to a 2.4 per cent fall between 1990 and 2010.

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“In high-income countries like Australia, there’s been a real decline in progress,” Peden says.

“In the past 10 years, we’ve seen reductions in rates of road transport injury essentially stall, showing a lack of attention to the issue.”

Peden says the lack of progress in reducing transport injury deaths only becomes more apparent as other causes of young adult mortality get more focus.

“Despite being the leading cause of death in adolescents globally, it’s been relatively neglected when you consider the strong action on other non-injury causes of death amongst adolescents,” Peden says.

Peden says the world needs stronger commitment to promote safety behaviours around the road transport industry, with increasing safety laws being critical.

“There are simple, affordable and proven interventions to reduce road traffic injuries that are not being applied or enforced,” Peden says.

“Now is the time to step up global action on road safety and renew our efforts to safeguard adolescents from preventable injury.”

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