The toll of road injuries

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We have just learned that our friend Nikhil, who was hit by a bus while crossing the street, will have to be amputated further: the doctors will cut off his leg above the knee. (The other leg still has no skin on it; they can’t do a graft yet because of an ongoing infection.) Following his experiences helps put into perspective the term “road injury”; some may be mild but others mean permanent disability. According to the WHO, “Nearly 3,500 people die on the world's roads every day. Tens of millions of people are injured or disabled every year. Children, pedestrians, cyclists and the elderly are among the most vulnerable of road users.” And yet much of the effort spent on injury prevention involves seat belts and motorcycle helmets. Meanwhile, the terms “injury” and “disability” sound benign until we recall what they mean. Unpleasant though it is to remind ourselves, it helps provide incentive to work for a better transport system, one which does not so easily result in injury and death, but which could mean more emphasis on keeping destinations close by through mixed land use, on slower and gentler movement, and on life in cities rather than a constant push to move farther and faster. The irony is that by trying to increase speed we land up with congestion; by trying to become more mobile, millions of people lose their lives or their mobility each year. We can and must do better.