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Urban Policies Could Reduce Road Traffic Deaths In Latin American Cities

stop sign in Spanish

Philadelphia, PA, February 10, 2022


A recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health found that specific urban development policies might reduce road traffic deaths in Latin America and similar cities around the world. The publication, developed by researchers from the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project, found that road traffic mortality was lower in cities with a bus rapid transit or rail transit system and higher population density, denser urban development, and higher GDP per capita.

"Our findings suggest that cities that prioritize higher density development, smaller block sizes, better transportation connectivity, and efficient public transportation options can improve road safety and reduce road traffic deaths," says Dr. Alex Quistberg of the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative, lead author of the study.

This study also demonstrated that there is substantial variation in road traffic mortality rates across Latin American countries and cities. Chile had the city with the lowest rate of urban road traffic deaths (7.6 per 100,000 people), whereas Peru had the city with the highest (66.6 deaths per 100,000 people).

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine road traffic mortality and city-level built environment characteristics across multiple cities and countries in Latin America,” says Dr. Ana Diez Roux of the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, who is the Principal Investigator of the SALURBAL study.

"Most research on road traffic safety is conducted in high-income countries. Our hope is that this research can provide important information and insights to policymakers in low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and globally."

Cities that wish to reduce road traffic deaths should consider changes to their urban development, street design, and public transportation options, rather than relying only on the driver, cyclist, or pedestrian behavioral interventions to improve safety.

Urban Health in Latin America (SALURBAL) is a research project that aims to study how urban policies and the environment affect the health of residents of Latin American cities. The results of this project will serve as a reference to inform future policies and interventions to make cities healthier, more equitable, and sustainable throughout the world. SALURBAL is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Lancet Planetary Health is a gold open access journal that seeks to be the pre-eminent journal for inquiry into sustainable human civilizations in the Anthropocene.

In addition to Quistberg and Diez Roux, the other authors of the research include Philipp Hessel (Colombia), Daniel Rodriguez (USA), Olga L. Sarmiento (Colombia), Usama Bilal (USA), Waleska Teixeira Caiaffa (Brazil), J. Jaime Miranda (Peru), Maria de Fatima de Pina (Brazil), and Akram Hernandez-Vasquez (Brazil).

For more information contact Andrea Bolinaga at