Why it’s safer to work in war zones

I’m sometimes asked if working in northern Uganda or Liberia is dangerous. This Guardian article adequately sums up the answer:

India’s chaotic roads are now officially the most dangerous place to drive in the world.

Last year road accidents claimed more than 130,000 lives – overtaking China, which has seen fatalities drop to fewer than 90,000, and prompting a government review into traffic safety that until now has been best summed up by local drivers as “good horns, good brakes, good luck”.

..The Geneva-based International Road Federation estimates that India already accounts for about 10% of the million-plus fatal accidents in the world

I was in two bus accidents in India in the space of a few months. Northern Uganda? Bad roads + few vehicles = safe driving. I was far more at risk in Kampala taxis than northern badlands.

The same wouldn’t hold for Iraq or Afghanistan, but beyond that, I don’t see many conflist zones that worry me more than Delhi or Nairobi.

More tips on working in conflicted areas.

3 thoughts on “Why it’s safer to work in war zones

  1. Nick:
    For statistics on traffic accidents and injuries you can check here: http://cemt.org/IRTAD/IRTADPUBLIC/we2.html

    Apparently, there are big differences in Europe. However, on a measure of killed pr 100.000 the US is close to equal with Greece, which is by far the worst in Europe on this measure. While Greece has 14.9 killed pr 100.000, the US has 14.7. On the other hand, most countries in North-Western Europe, like the UK or the Netherlands, hover around 5. Eastern and Southern Europe are mostly worse, but still ranging somewhere between 8 and 12.

    The US performs a lot better on persons killed pr 1 bln vehicle km, another often cited measure. However, no country on this planet have more cars pr capita than the US.

    For instance, India have 12 motor vehicles (including motorcycles) pr capita, the US have 765. Highest in Europe is Luxembourg, with 686, and highest for a European country with more than 10 mill citizens is Italy with 566, followed by Belgium, with 464.

    So Europe generally thrashes the US regarding traffic safety, but it is mainly because Europeans have fewer cars, and drive less. On the other hand, India appears to be soaring as extremely high-risk, since they only have 1.5% the amount of cars pr capita, but almost 300% the fatalities pr capita compared to the US(The US had slightly below 50.000 in 2005).

    So saying that India is not doing bad is simply wrong.

    (And what do you think kills more people in Israel, terrorism or cars? It’s cars. With a huge margin. And it has always been that way.)

  2. Wait, that’s not bad at all!

    India makes up 16% of the world’s population, and is only responsible for 10% of it’s accidents? That puts it way above average for road safety.

    Now admittedly not all 1.2 billion people are on the road, so that’s not quite accurate, but still — this looks like another “India has big numbers because it’s big” situation.

    The International Road Federation wants money for their stats, but I’d like to compare per capita traffic fatalities with the US and EU.

  3. I make the same point about the risk of disease. People worry a lot about the exotic things you can catch in Africa, and less about the more prosaic risk of a car crash. (As a native New Yorker, I’ve always thought of automotive travel as inherently risky ;) )

    My only quibble is about Nairobi. There I’m more concerned about violent crime than I am about the admittedly high risk of an automobile accident.