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The Arizona Republic reported in October that Native Americans are living in danger. For most Americans the leading cause of death is heart disease, then cancer. For Navajos, it’s accidents. The unintentional injury, or accidental, death rate for Navajos is 138.5 per 100 000 compared with 30.1 for all races. It’s the highest of all Indians (contributed by Ian Scott).

Traffic to be biggest killer in two decades

Traffic accidents are set to become one of the world’s biggest killers in the next two decades, with pedestrians making up the largest number of victims, the leader of a United Nations sponsored research body said. Such accidents are currently the ninth leading cause of death globally, Dr Adnan Hyder, a founding member of the Road Traffic Injury Research Network, said Wednesday. The network is funded by the World Health Organization.

The most recent United Nations statistics show that almost 1.2 million people were killed on the world’s roads in 1998, Hyder said. In 1998 more than 1 million of the world’s road accident victims were in Africa, Asia, South and Central America, and regions like the former Soviet Union.

By 2020, road accidents will be the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and deaths linked to mental illness, Hyder said. The WHO definition of deaths linked to mental illness includes degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, suicides by people suffering from depression, and alcohol abuse. Governments—especially in poor countries—must find new ways to reduce the carnage, he said.

Most of the accidents occur in developing countries where Western-style traffic regulations are largely ineffective because they are rarely enforced or because people and vehicles have to share the same busy roads. “Two thirds of the people who die are pedestrians”, Hyder told reporters. “People who will never own a car in their life are at the greatest risk”.

Most road safety studies are produced in rich countries and their lessons may not be appropriate for the developing world, he said. Boosting law enforcement—clamping down on people who fail to wear a seatbelt, for example—can be much less effective than “separating the space”, so pedestrians and cyclists do not have to travel alongside cars or buses, he said (Associated Press, August 2002, contributed by Peter Jacobsen).