Iran is the world's fourth most dangerous country for driving in terms of road traffic death rate, according to a recent World Health Organization report. More than 27,000 people die each year in traffic accidents, equivalent to about 34.1 deaths per 100,000 people. The Dominican Republic, the most dangerous country for driving, has a death rate of 41.7 per 100,000 people.
Iran’s soaring oil wealth led to a tenfold increase in cars during the 1970s, some 75 percent of which were in Tehran alone. By the 1979 revolution, a million cars were buzzing around the capital. In the mid-1990s, a major Iranian paper reported that Tehran residents wasted an accumulative 1.2 billion hours annually in traffic jams. Traffic has gotten worse since then as the number of cars has increased to some 4 million.
The Lonely Planet travel guide recommends forgetting "everything you’ve ever learned about road rules” before driving in Tehran because “none of it applies.” The guide warns of the “lawless aggression” of local drivers.
In recent years, the government has taken steps to improve road safety. It launched a comprehensive road safety program in 2005 including three enforcement-based interventions —a seatbelt law, a motorcycle helmet law and increased general traffic law enforcement. Fatalities per 100,000 people decreased from 38.2 per year in 2004 to 31.8 in 2007, according to the World Health Organization.
In 2008, Iran established the National Road Information and Traffic Management Center. The government installed additional traffic cameras and made more of an effort to enforce traffic laws. But enforcement is still a key problem. The World Health Organization gave Iran a rating of 6 out of 10 for enforcement of national speed limits and a 5 for enforcing the seat-belt law. The following is an excerpt from the 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety.