Most victims are men aged 25 to 34. The creation and implementation of safety norms can stop and help reverse trends.

Washington, D.C., 4 September 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Motorcycle deaths in the Americas more than tripled during the last two decades, according to a study by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) published in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion.

The study, Trends in fatal motorcycle injuries in the Americas, 1998-2010, shows that motorcycle deaths in the region increased 227% in 12 years, from 3,209 in 1998 to 10,505 in 2010.

Men are the most frequent motorcycle users in Latin America, and those aged 25 to 35 years were the most common victims of crashes. According to the study, men face a 7.8 times higher risk of death from motorcycle crashes than women.

"Recent economic changes, the rapid increase of motor vehicle use, the affordability of motorcycles over public transportation, the lack of adequate public transportation policies and other insufficient measures to improve safety explain these trends," said Eugênia Rodrigues, PAHO/WHO regional adviser for road safety and co-author of the study.

This study is the first to compile data from 17 countries in the Americas aimed at emphasizing the severity of the problem and proposing hypotheses to explain trends in motorcycle deaths and injuries. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and the United States were included in the study.

Results show that the countries with the highest mortality rates were Colombia (3.6 per 100,000 inhabitants), Brazil (2.9 per 100,000), Paraguay (0.2 per 100,000), and Suriname (2.2 per 100,000). Chile and Ecuador had the lowest rates, both with 0.2 deaths per 100,000. Chile and Paraguay had the highest rates of increase in number of motorcycle deaths, however.

Motorcyclists represent 15% of all traffic-related deaths

The report shows that, in the Americas, traffic-related injuries are the number-one cause of death among children aged 5 to 14 years and the second-leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 44 years. In 2010, there were 149,992 traffic deaths in the Americas and an estimated 5 million people injured. Motorcyclists represent 15% of these deaths.

Motorcyclists are especially vulnerable to injuries due to the high speeds they can achieve and the small size of motorcycles, which offer little protection and are less visible in traffic. Motorcyclists involved in collisions have a higher risk of death or serious injury and suffer a high frequency of injuries to the head, chest and legs.

In the Americas, the number of registered vehicles is estimated at over 422 million, of which approximately 38 million are motorcycles.

There are differences in the types of vehicles and motorization rates from one country to another, with motorization rates ranging from 55 per 1,000 inhabitants in Peru to 779 per 1,000 in the United States.

Low-income countries have higher motorcycle death rates

Results suggest that lower-income countries tend to have higher motorcycle death rates.

Less than half (40.6%) of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have adequate helmet laws requiring the use of helmets by all passengers, of all ages, on any motorized two-wheel vehicle, on all roads, and with helmets that fulfill specific safety standards.

Needed measures that could help halt or reverse these trends include the development and enforcement of standard motorcycle safety norms; laws that require helmet use by all passengers; exclusive motorcycle lanes; better enforcement of speed limits, quality, and safety of motorcycles; and policies that encourage the use of public transportation.

The study was conducted by Eugênia Rodrigues, Antonio Sanhueza, and José Escamilla-Cejudo from PAHO/WHO in partnership with Andrés Villaveces of the Cisalva Institute of the Universidad del Valle, Colombia.



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