In a recent 2018 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated Liberia as the country with the most dangerous driving. The report estimated a road traffic death rate of 35.9 per 100,000 people in the country. Other highly dangerous places to drive include Saint Lucia, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and the Dominican Republic.
Worldwide, the rate of road traffic deaths has stayed at about 18 people per 100,000 for the past 15 years. With population growth, road traffic deaths have increased to 1.35 million annually as of 2016. They are the leading cause of death for children and young adults ages five to 29 and the eighth leading cause across all age groups.
Road traffic deaths remain high in low-income countries, like Liberia, which have not achieved legislation changes, safety improvements, vehicle safety standards, and better medical care post-accident. The risk is three times higher in low-income countries than high-income ones. Although 13% of traffic fatalities occur in low-income countries, those places only have 1% of the world’s vehicles.
Liberia has a gross national income per capita of $370. For comparison, the gross national income per capita in America is $56,180. Located in western Africa, Liberia is a republic settled by people formerly enslaved in the U.S. and Caribbean, beginning in the 1820s. Unrest and civil war ended in 2003, although the country has not fully recovered.
The Liberia National Police reported that 175 people died at the scene of a crash in 2016. From this, the WHO estimated there were approximately 1,657 annual fatalities in Liberia. This estimate gave the rate of 35.9 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people. Information isn’t available about whether the deaths were vehicle drivers or passengers, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
Roads and vehicles
Liberia has such a high rate of traffic fatalities because it doesn’t have enough safe roads, vehicles, or drivers. Roads and bridges often have potholes or damage, so a four-wheel-drive car is recommended. Outside of Monrovia, the capital, many roads are not paved, which means conditions get really bad during the rainy season from May to November.
Liberia hasn’t upgraded high-risk locations, but it has invested in urban public transportation and policies promoting walking and biking. However, only partial design standards exist for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The country doesn’t have requirements for vehicle standards. Blowouts are frequent since lots of cars have threadbare tires. Plus, not all vehicles have lights, and roads have few traffic or street lights.
Drivers and laws
Liberia also doesn’t have a culture of safe driving. Drivers should have either a Liberian or an international driver’s license. But traffic laws often don’t exist, aren’t followed, or aren’t enforced. Liberia does have drunk-driving and motorcycle helmet laws, which is a good start. It does not have seat-belt laws, child restraint laws, or laws about phone use while driving. Having and enforcing these kinds of rules can reduce crashes.
Liberia has national speed-limit laws, but there are many hazards since vehicles stop without signaling and pedestrians and animals cross into traffic. Vehicles swerve around potholes, and taxis and motorcycle taxis stop suddenly. Traffic accidents are sometimes followed by mob violence. There are also armed groups around the border with Côte d’Ivoire, which increases the risk of violence. These factors make it easier to crash and harder to survive.
If there is a traffic accident, Liberia does have a national emergency phone number. The number for fire, police, and ambulance services is 911, as it is in the U.S. However, emergency services are not reliable and don’t always show up. Cell service can be spotty, especially outside cities, and there is no landline phone service, making it hard to even call 911. Also, Liberia doesn’t have postgraduate emergency and trauma training for nurses and doctors.
America has a much lower rate of 12.4 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people. Or, if you’d rather visit the safest places to drive, you can go to San Marino, Maldives, Micronesia, Switzerland, and Norway.