Spatial Analysis of Road Safety in Mexico
What's the Issue? Road Safety in the Region and in Mexico
Traffic-related accidents are one of the leading causes of mortality in the Latin American and Caribbean region, particularly for those between 5 and 44 years old. Traffic accidents are responsible for over 140,000 deaths and an estimated 5 million injuries annually in the region[i]. Every year, 15,000 Mexicans die and 400,000 more are injured due to traffic accidents. Seventy percent of those affected are relatively young, between the ages of 19 and 45[ii].
One common obstacle to the study of traffic accident causes, incidence and geographical distribution is the lack of quality data[iii]. In many low-income and middle-income countries, such as Mexico, systematic efforts to collect road traffic data are not well developed and underreporting of deaths and serious injuries is common. Serious reductions of traffic accident risk and severity can only be achieved through systematic and data-led management of road safety[iv].
The Spatial Diagnostic of Road Accidents Study in Mexico City
In 2009, the Spatial Diagnostics of Road Accidents project in the Federal District of Mexico (Mexico City), categorized the geographic distribution patterns of traffic accidents in the different districts of the Federal District using data from 2005. The project was financed by the National Centre for Accident Prevention at the Mexican Ministry of Health and was developed in collaboration with scientists from the Geography Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Pan American Health Organization.
The aim of the project was to identify, locate and characterize the territorial patterns of traffic accidents in Mexico City and help determine the actions necessary to prevent them. Modern geographical information systems (GIS), packages and statistical tools were used to process thousands of records with variables related to types of accidents, vehicles and people involved[v].
The data were integrated to create a report with text, tables and maps, conclusions and recommendations. The report is a useful tool for supporting situational analyses, research and epidemiologic surveillance for road traffic injury prevention. For example, the finding that high risk zones make up less than 20 percent of the road network enables the government to plan low cost prevention campaigns targeted to specific high risk zones. The investigators were also able to spatially characterize the risk factors and frequency of various types of traffic accidents, persons involved and specific health outcomes[vi]
Research to Practice – A National Road Safety Initiative
Road Safety Initiative Mascot
The findings of the Spatial Diagnostics of Road Accidents project in the Federal District (and other similar studies) will facilitate the planning of evidence-informed road safety programs like the Mexican Road Safety Initiative launched in November of 2008 to reduce traffic injuries and deaths[vii]. The first stage of the initiative focuses on risk factors such as the use of safety belts and child safety measures while the second stage focuses on pedestrian safety, vehicle speed and road safety education.
Although researchers relied on data from only one year to complete the road accident spatial diagnostic, it will hopefully serve as an impetus for sustained research and surveillance of traffic-related injuries throughout Mexico. Additionally, innovative and impactful studies of this kind can help raise awareness in the general population of critical public health issues, which complements government-led educational outreach campaigns. While it is too early to determine whether the Mexican Road Safety Initiative will produce measurable and lasting improvements in road safety, it is clear that policymakers are now taking into account research data to strive for more effective public health interventions.
[ii] Luis Chías Becerril, specialist from the Instituto de Geografía (IG) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in http://www.portalautomotriz.com/content/2/module/news/op/displaystory/story_id/8934/format/html/
[iii] Hijar, Vasquez-Vela and Arreola-Risa. 2003. Pedestrian Traffic injuries in Mexico: A country update. Injury Control and Safety Promotion 10: pg 37-43.
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