Road traffic injuries are now the leading cause of death for people aged 5-29 years.
The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
This is the global scenario as stated in the World Health Organisation's road safety report 2018.
But the situation is grave in countries like Bangladesh, where road traffic deaths are three times higher than in high-income countries.
A recent World Bank study has shown that for South Asia as a whole, a 50 percent reduction in road deaths would generate an estimated gross benefit of about $1.2 trillion. Annual crash-related costs are estimated at 2 to 5 percent of national Gross Domestic Product globally.
Strong policies and enforcement, smart road design, and powerful public awareness campaigns helped 48 middle- and high-income countries reduce road traffic deaths.
But not a single low-income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths, in large part because these measures are lacking, the WHO report points out.
Drastic action is needed to put these measures in place to meet any future global target that might be set, and to save lives, it says.
It highlights that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million globally, with pedestrians and cyclists accounting for 26 percent of them.
Motorcycle riders and passengers account for 28 percent of all road traffic deaths.
The proportion is higher in Asia and Africa, the regions that are home to most of world's population and have the least density of motorised vehicles.
Average rate of road traffic deaths is 27.5 per 100,000 people in low-income countries, compared to 8.3 in high-income nations.
Even though road traffic injuries kill more people than tuberculosis and diarrhoea, road safety issues remained largely neglected in many countries of Asia and Africa.
Road safety efforts in low-income countries remain "far from sufficient" to realise UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.6 – which calls for a 50 percent reduction in the number of road traffic deaths by 2020.
The coming year also marks the end of "UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020" that asks its member states to establish a comprehensive multi-sectoral national road safety action plan with time-bound targets.
Bangladesh, like most other countries, has not progressed much in putting in place any such action plan, except for updating its road transportation law amid a massive student protest last year.
The Accident Research Institute of Buet in an earlier study said road accidents kill at least 2,700 people every year in Bangladesh, and leave roughly 2,400 injured.
The victims are mostly pedestrians, and buses are the culprits in most of the accidents.
Students took to the streets in Dhaka in July last year after two college students were crushed to death by a bus. Students blocked city roads to campaign for safe roads, and demanded justice for road fatalities.
The movement expedited cabinet approval of the draft of the Road Transportation Act 2018 with the maximum penalty of five years in jail and a penalty of Tk5 lakh for fatal road accidents. Road safety advocacy groups demanded capital punishment for reckless driving, but the cabinet did not endorse it saying a driver can be tried for 'killing someone on road' under the Penal Code where death is the highest punishment.
The draft was passed into law in September last year.
But students' demands for putting zebra crossings, building foot over-bridges and removing unskilled drivers and unfit vehicles from streets went unheeded.
The UN appreciates countries having good legislation but points out the absence of efforts and strategies needed to reduce deaths on roads.
The UN considers safe user, safe vehicle, safe road and effective post-crash response as pillars for a country's road safety management.
Developed nations adopted policies to save lives on roads, with Sweden and the Netherlands pioneering programmes like "Vision Zero".
One hundred and twelve countries have national design standards for the management of speed, while 92 countries have road designs separating pedestrians and cyclists from motorised traffic.
Bangladesh is not among them.
The global agency constituted a Road Safety Trust Fund earlier this month to help low-income countries make their roads safer.
It is supporting road safety projects in countries including Pakistan on a pilot basis.
The UN secretary-general's Special Envoy on Road Safety, Jean Todt, who is also on the advisory board of the UN trust fund, has been in Dhaka to look for ways to help Bangladesh improve road safety management.
He will join the World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer, in meeting the finance and the road transportation ministers and key officials to find out how to partner with Bangladesh to make traffic safer.
The World Bank and the United Nations are offering countries a number of tools and support modalities to tackle road safety problems under the UN Road Safety Fund.
The fund will call for project proposals on road safety, like strengthening of speed management and safe street designs. The proposals will be reviewed by the Road Safety Trust Fund's advisory board which includes the World Bank as a member.