Road safety: A liability in Latin America's infrastructure push

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the world's highest death rates on road accidents, with those rates in an upward trend, as poor infrastructure mixes with irresponsible drivers and pedestrians, said a senior executive from Boston-based insurer Liberty Mutual.

Worldwide road accidents deaths average 17.7 per 100,000 people, but in most of Latin America that number is above 20.

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The Dominican Republic ranks in the world's highest rate with a mark of 41.7, up dramatically from 34.8 in 2010, followed by Venezuela with 37.2, up from 35.8, according to World Health Organization figures.

Ecuador has also shown a marked deterioration in road accidents, with 27.0 deaths per 100,000 residents from 20.4 three years ago.

"Latin America is the number one region in the world for fatalities on the roadway. More so even than Asia," David Melton, managing director of global safety at Liberty Mutual, told BNamericas.

"The infrastructure outside of the cities could be a problem. I think speed is also a problem... I still see people crossing outside of the zebra crosswalks, I still see drivers not respecting pedestrians," he added.

Melton, who develops road safety programs, stressed that 40% of fatalities on roads are pedestrians, and most of them young people.

While road infrastructure investment is important to improving safety, countries also need to invest on more overcrossings and tunnels to avoid having pedestrians circulating in forbidden areas, he added.

Countries also need to focus policies on better public transportation to alleviate traffic while also tightening rules to change behavior in the region.

"I don't think there is a strong push for road safety as there should be, in the entire region," Melton said.