Taghi Mehri, Iran’s police chief announced that 459,000 lost their lives in traffic accidents in Iran within less than two decades since 1998.
According to Mehri, more than 4.5 million people were injured in accidents during the same time. Considering that in the last 19 years Iran’s population has been between 70 and 80 million, this number constitutes a high rate of accident casualties.
The number of road fatalities in this time period, is higher than the official number of Iranian casualties in the 8 year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Iran’s police chief also added that 43 people died in incidents related to traffic on a daily basis.
According to the World Health Organization’s 2013 statistics, the average number of road accident deaths in the world is 17 per 100,000 inhabitants. Iran’s average for the same year is 32 per 100,000, which is close to the highest accident deaths in the world.
According to statistics published by a national research institute, after Sierra Leone, Iran has the highest annual fatality rate in traffic incidents among 190 countries in the world, even though the government claims the number has drastically dropped from 27,000 in 2000s to around 17,000 in recent years.
Ali Rabiei, Iran’s Minister for Labor and Social Welfare, said from 21500 disabled people with spinal cord injuries who were receiving benefits from his ministry, more than 40% were disabled in traffic accidents.
Traffic incidents are the reason for some national tragedies in Iran. In March 1998, a bus carrying some of Iranian elite students crashed and left 11 people dead. Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford mathematics Professor and Fields Medal winner who died in July due to cancer, was among the survivors of the accident.
Last month, Iranian media reported that a bus crash killed 12 people, all but one of them schoolgirls travelling to the southern city of Shiraz for a sports and cultural event.
Substandard roads, inferior cars, lack of proper training, and inadequate enforcement of law are the major reasons for traffic accidents in Iran.
Roads, particularly in mountainous regions are old and not upgraded since decades.
More than 20 years ago, the government launched a project of building a 120-kilometer highway connecting Tehran to northern cities along the Caspian Sea. But the project is still unfinished.
Using seat-belts for car passengers and drivers and helmet for motorcyclist were only enforced in recent years. But many drivers still do not respect basic traffic regulations, including driving between the lanes and yielding right of way.