Trauma is the commonest cause of death in children and young adults in the USA and the UK and the incidence of both accidental and non-accidental injury continues to increase. In the Western world more pre-retirement years of life are lost annually from trauma than malignant disease, heart disease, and AIDS combined, and by the beginning of the last decade injury deaths outnumbered deaths from all other causes combined in those under 35 years of age. In South Africa, although infectious diseases continue to exact their toll, a similar pattern is emerging. Alcohol and speed are responsible for the majority of motor vehicle accidents, while the increasing ownership of firearms directly parallels the homicide rates from these weapons. Stricter application of the legislation governing alcohol, driving and firearm control is required and a regionalised trauma care programme is desperately needed to contain this epidemic.