Chair of Development Economics
Reducing social costs of traffic crashes

Reducing social costs of traffic crashes

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, annually, road traffic crashes cause over 1.2 million deaths and about 25 million severe injuries. In 2020, such injuries are expected to rank third in terms of the global burden of disease. Over 90% of the world's fatalities occur in lower income countries, putting road traffic fatalities on a par with malaria deaths. Since these fatalities are concentrated in the economically active population, there are considerable economic and social implications, both at the household and economy-wide level. India has one of the highest per capita traffic fatalities in the world. Unlike China, fatalities continue to increase. The social costs have been evaluated at 3.2% of GDP, a loss that inhibits economic and social development.

In particular, policies that have shown to be effective in rich countries are typically not transferable to poor countries, since they fail to take into account the specificities of these countries and are typically far too expensive given the small budgets of these countries and the large number of competing problems. Traffic patterns in poor countries are much more complex than those in high-income countries, since in the former we find (i) a large proportion of income-poor road users; (ii) a high proportion of vulnerable road users sharing the road with motorized vehicles; (iii) a high population density in urban areas with mixed land use; (iv) weak enforcement of traffic rules and regulations; and (v) severe limitations on public resources available for road and other infrastructure.

To date, there is limited research on the underlying causes of road traffic accidents, or on interventions that may be implemented to reduce accidents. This project tries to fill this gap. In 2011 a representative survey has been undertaken among motor bike drivers and passengers in Delhi. This survey was financed by the Health, Risk and Insurance Chair of Paris Dauphine University and by the Paris School of Economics. Preparatory field work in 2010 was financed through the International Institute of Social Studies (Erasmus University Rotterdam). The research is mainly undertaken by Carole Treibich who is doing a PhD under a so-called co-tutelle agreement at the Paris School of Economics and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

A first paper explores the determinants of road traffic crash fatalities in India. In addition to income, the analysis considers the socio-demographic population structure, motorization levels, road and health infrastructure and road rule enforcement as potential factors. An original panel data set covering 25 Indian states is analyzed using multivariate regression analysis. Time and state fixed effects account for unobserved heterogeneity across states and time. The results suggest that rising motorization, urbanization and the accompanying increase in the share of vulnerable road users, i.e. pedestrians and two-wheelers, are the major drivers of road traffic crash fatalities in India. Among vulnerable road users, women form a particularly high risk group. Higher expenditure per police officer is associated with a lower fatality rate. The paper concludes that India should focus, in particular, on road infrastructure investments that allow the separation of vulnerable from other road users, on improved road rule enforcement and should pay special attention to vulnerable female road users.

M. Grimm and C. Treibich (2013), Determinants of Road Traffic Crash Fatalities across Indian StatesHealth Economics, 22(8): 915-930. (See also here)

A second paper (in progress) focuses on helmet use and the speed of bikers. For this purpose, in 2011 a representative survey has been undertaken among motor bike drivers and passengers in Delhi. This survey was financed by the Health, Risk and Insurance Chair of Paris Dauphine University and by the Paris School of Economics. Preparatory field work in 2010 was financed through the International Institute of Social Studies (Erasmus University Rotterdam).

M. Grimm and C. Treibich (2016), Why some motorbike riders wear a helmet and others don't? Evidence from Delhi, India. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 88:318-336. Also available asIZA Discussion Paper No. 8042, IZA, Bonn.

The Economist recently featured several articles on the topic:

•    Road safety: Reinventing the wheel
•    Road deaths: Driving to an early grave

As mercury soars, helmets disappear (Article in The Hindu, Chennai) - PDF-Version

Useful links:

Global Road Safety Partnership

World road Safety Partnership

United Nations Road Safety Collaboration

Global Status Report on Road Safety

Road Safety Fund

Global Road Safety Facility