A recent WHO report on inadequate road safety opened with some stark figures: 1.2 million deaths and up to 50 million nonfatal injuries occur every year on the world's roads.
In keeping with the aim of PLoS Medicine to prioritize studies that consider all factors that contribute substantially to morbidity and mortality worldwide, this month PLoS Medicine publishes research and magazine articles focusing on this topic. In an accompanying editorial, the PLoS Medicine editors call for better data to support policy changes that could reduce the global burden of death and injury that results from road traffic crashes.
In a new research article, Shankuan Zhu and colleagues, from the Medical College of Wisconsin, use computer crash simulations, as well as real-world data, to evaluate whether driver obesity is associated with greater risk of body injury in motor vehicle crashes. The authors conclude, "Obese men endured a much higher risk of injury to upper body regions during motor vehicle crashes. This higher risk might be attributed to differences in body shape, fat distribution, and center of gravity between obese and normal-weight subjects, and between men and women."
In the PLoS Medicine Magazine section, Aymery Constant and Emmanuel Lagarde discuss policies to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, from injury. The authors, from INSERM, Bordeaux, remind us "that half of the 1.2 million fatalities occurring each year on the world's roads concern vulnerable road users" and that many countermeasures still need to be enacted to prevent injury to this group. The authors argue that "only a multipronged approach will be successful -- combining passive and active devices with regulations, enforcement, and awareness campaigns."
In an accompanying editorial, "Preventing Road Deaths -- Time for Data," the PLoS Medicine Editors' stress the impact of inadequate road safety on global health, in both developed and low- and middle-income countries. The editors' comment that "research into the risk factors for injury from road traffic crashes, analyses of attitudes to road safety, evaluation of projects aiming to improve road safety, and alternatives to motor vehicle travel are all areas where medical researchers, statisticians, and public health professionals can contribute vital information in support of life-saving policies."
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