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Road fatalities are the highest cause of death in young people across the globe, research has revealed.

The study undertaken by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and published in The Lancet Public Health, used data from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study to form the basis of their analysis.

Using information regarding deaths and Disability-Affected Life Years (DALYs), covering more than 200 countries across more than three decades, the researchers found that while the death rates from transport-related injuries had fallen “by a third since 1990, the number of deaths attributed to road fatalities for adolescents still increased in some countries.”

Dr Amy Peden, a research fellow with UNSW’s School of Population Health, said preventative action and policy making centred on other causes of adolescent deaths. However, she said it was striking that this population’s leading cause of death (road deaths) received less attention.

“Despite being the leading cause of death in adolescents globally, it’s been relatively neglected when you consider the strong action on other non-injury causes of death among adolescents,” Dr Peden said.

She added that radical solutions weren’t necessarily needed and that governments needed to strongly commit to investing in proven options such as graduated licensing, laws establishing minimum drinking ages baselines, and helmet and seat belt laws.

“The prevention of road traffic injury is still not very well resourced compared to other causes of death of adolescents. So, the findings show a lack of investment in the issue from the global health community.

“There are simple, affordable and proven interventions to reduce road traffic injuries that are not being applied or enforced… Now is the time to step up global action on road safety and renew our efforts to safeguard adolescents from preventable injury.”

The report also canvassed other concerns, such as the increase in adolescent transport deaths in lower-income countries, where the proportion of road-related death grew by 19 percentage points to 47% from 1990 to 2019.

Following the publication of the research, researchers at UNSW said they would investigate the economic motivation for governments across the globe to invest in road injury prevention more significantly.

“Adolescent transport and unintentional injuries: a systematic analysis using the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019” is available from The Lancet Public Health here.