Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
TAPIA GRANADOS, José A.. A reduction in automobile traffic: an urgent health promotion policy. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1998, vol.3, n.3, pp.137-151. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891998000300001.
During the last few decades, traffic injuries have become one of the leading causes of death and disability in the world. In urban areas, traffic congestion, noise, and emissions from motor vehicles produce subjective disturbances and detectable pathological effects. More than one billion people are exposed to harmful levels of environmental pollution. Because its combustion engine generates carbon dioxide (CO2), the automobile is one of the chief sources of the gases that are causing the greenhouse effect. The latter has already caused a rise in the average ambient temperature, and over the next decades it will predictably cause significant climatic changes whose consequences, though uncertain, are likely to be harmful and possibly catastrophic. Aside from the greenhouse effect, the relentless growth of parking zones, traffic, and the roadway infrastructure in urban and rural areas is currently one of the leading causes of environmental degradation. Urban development, which is nearly always "planned" around traffic instead of people, leads to a significant deterioration in the quality of life, while it also destroys the social fabric. Unlike the private automobile, public transportation, bicycles, and walking help reduce pollution, congestion, and traffic volume, as well as the morbidity and mortality resulting from injuries and ailments related to pollution. Non-automobile transportation also encourages physical activity¾with its positive effect on general health¾and helps reduce the greenhouse effect. The drop in traffic volume and the increased use of alternate means of transportation are thus an integrated health promotion policy which should become an inherent part of the movement for the promotion of healthy cities and of transportation policies and economic policy in general.