Traffic fatalities and economic growth
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Traffic fatalities and economic growth

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    As countries develop death rates usually fall, especially for diseases that affect the young and result in substantial life-years lost. Deaths due to traffic accidents are a notable exception: the growth in motor vehicles that accompanies economic growth usually brings an increase in road traffic accidents. Indeed, the World Health Organization has predicted that traffic fatalities will be the sixth leading cause of death worldwide and the second leading cause of disability-adjusted life- years lost in developing countries by the year 2020. The situation in high-income countries is the opposite, with the trend in traffic fatalities declining. This is not surprising. The traffic fatality rate (fatalities/population) is the product of vehicles per person (V/P) and fatalities per vehicle (F/V). How rapidly fatality risk grows depends, by definition, on the rate of growth in motorization (V/P) and the rate of change in fatalities per vehicle (F/V). In most developing countries over the past 25 years, vehicle ownership grew more rapidly than fatalities per vehicle fell. The experience in industrialized countries, however, was the opposite; vehicles per person grew more slowly than fatalities per vehicle fell. This paper examines how the death rate (F/P) associated with traffic accidents and its components-V/P and F/V-change as countries grow. The topic is of interest for two reasons. For planning purposes it important to forecast the growth in traffic fatalities. Equations relating F/P to per capita income can be used to predict traffic fatalities by region. These forecasts should alert policymakers to what is likely to happen if measures are not enacted to reduce traffic accidents. The second is to understand income level at which the traffic fatality rate (F/P) historically has begun to decline in relationship to other economic externalities. Data from 1963-99 for 88 countries was analyzed, estimating equations for the motor vehicle fatality rate (F/P), the rate of motorization (V/P) and fatalities per vehicle (F/V) The paper is organized at follows. Section II presents trends in fatality rates (F/P), motorization rates (V/P), and fatalities per vehicle (F/V) for various countries. Plots of each variable against per capita income motivate the econometric models. Section III describes the econometric models estimated and Section IV presents projections of road traffic fatalities. Section V concludes. References, appendix, tables, graphs, 43 p.
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