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Grand Challenges in Engineering

The global economic burden of Road Traffic Injuries (RTI’s) is approximately in 2007m 1.2 million deaths per year with an associated Societal Cost of $1trillion/annum, in addition to which there are around 50 million injured adding another $1trillon, giving a total of some $2trillion/annum.

The change in rank order of DALYs for the 10 leading causes of the global burden of disease are,  in1990 RTI’s are 9th in the rank order, by 2020 this will rise to rank order 3, see table below.  Item 8 in 2020 is very interesting.

1990                                                          2020

Rank Disease or injury                         Rank Disease or injury

1 Lower respiratory infections                                 1 Ischaemic heart disease

2 Diarrhoeal diseases                                              2 Unipolar major depression

3 Perinatal conditions                                               3 Road traffic injuries

4 Unipolar major depression                                   4 Cerebrovascular disease

5 Ischaemic heart disease                                       5 Pulmonary disease

6 Cerebrovascular disease                                     6 Respiratory infections

7 Tuberculosis                                                           7 Tuberculosis

8 Measles                                                                  8 War

9 Road traffic injuries                                   9 Diarrhoeal diseases

10 Congenital abnormalities                                   10 HIV

DALY: Disability-adjusted life year. A health-gap measure that combines information on the number of years lost from premature death with the loss of health from disability. Source: WHO

The reason for this rise is the increase in RTI’s in developing countries.  As a countries economy grows then motorization occurs faster than infrastructure development, with an attendant increase in RTI’s to both vehicle occupants/riders and pedestrians.

The solution to these problems lies entirely within engineering, coupled with the socio-political will to achieve the change.  With the application of the three E’s (engineering, education, and enforcement) developing countries could be aided to undergo the motorization transition without the possible loss of life.  There can be no greater challenge to engineering than the saving of life, and it is entirely within the remit of Sustainable Development.

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