Road safety: A responsibility for everyone
On November 18th2012, Rwanda joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Road Safety day. This is a day to remember all those that have perished as a result of road accidents. Road traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death; statistics reveal that every year more than 1.2 million people die in road crashes around the world. Sixty-five percent of deaths involve pedestrians and 35 percent of pedestrian deaths are children.
Worldwide, over 30-50 million are injured and often disabled each year. This level of road trauma imposes huge economic costs, representing between 1 and 3 percent of GDP in most countries. The majority of these deaths – about 70 percent – occur in developing countries.
The annual cost of road crashes is in excess of US $500 billion, and in the developing world the estimated cost is about US $65 billion each year. Due to the scarcity of costing data for African countries, it is difficult to make a precise cost of road crashes in Sub-Saharan Africa. The current estimate of costs of crashes in the continent is US$ 3.7billion per year, of which South Africa alone accounts for 2 billion.
In order to improve the road safety situation in Africa, many road safety initiatives have been undertaken, amongst which three African Road Safety Congress held respectively in 1984, 1989 and 1997, the first road safety conference held in 2007 in Accra, Ghana during which the Accra Declaration was adopted and the African Regional Road Safety Seminar held in July 2009 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania which set the regional road traffic casualty reduction targets.
The UN General Assembly by its Resolution 64/255 of 02 March 2010 proclaimed 2011-2020 a Decade of Action for Road Safety. The Resolution requested WHO, the UN Regional Commissions, in cooperation with other partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration and other stakeholders, to prepare a plan of action of the Decade as a guiding document to support the implementation of its objectives. This is with a view to stabilizing and then reducing the level of road traffic fatalities around the world.
In response to that appeal, WHO, the UN Regional Commissions, in collaboration with the UN bodies and development partners prepared a Global Plan of Action (GPoA) that will serve as a guiding document for countries to implement the Decade.
To address the continent’s specificities, the Second African Road Safety conference was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 9-11 November 2011. It was organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) and the Government of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the International Road Federation (IRF), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank.
The 18th African Union Summit held in January 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia endorsed the conclusion of the second session of the conference of African Ministers of Transport (CAMT) held in Luanda, Angola from 21 to 25 November 2011 which among other adopted the African Plan of Action for the 2011-2020 Road safety Decade in accordance with the UN Resolution no 64/255 proclaiming the Decade of Action Plan for Safety as well as the Sunday of November which is the World Day for Remembrance of Road accident Victims, as “Africa Road Safety Day” The African Union Commission requested Ministries of Transport to organize a Remembrance day of Road Accident Victims on 18 November 2012 under the theme: “Safer Roads for Sustainable Development of Africa”
Some obstacles to road safety
Impediments to promoting road safety measures in Rwanda include lack of complete documentation on road traffic “accidents” and the resulting injuries, imprecise surveillance methods, limited research on causes and risk factors, as well as lack of awareness of existing interventions by the public and many policy makers, and lack of data collection system . In some cases, policy makers have been reluctant to introduce legislation on interventions proven to be effective in reducing injury severity.
The police also lack the necessary resources and logistics such as sufficient numbers of alcohol testing equipment, adequate number of officers trained to administer breath tests, limited access to transport, and the overwhelmed traffic courts, causing delays in convictions. In addition, the requirement that people suspected of alcohol and driving have to be taken to a hospital for a doctor’s examination and a blood test further presents a major obstacle to enforcing drink-driving legislation, as doctors may not be readily available and distances to health services are often long.
Furthermore, owing to inadequate medical infrastructure as well as resources for health care, the lack of effective post-injury management, including emergency care, definitive treatment and rehabilitation, present considerable constraints to injury control in Rwanda.
However, a national injury control committee to initiate a range of injury prevention activities in coordination with the Ministry of Health has been put in place.
Initiatives by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Rwanda National Police to promote road safety
Improving data quality by developing and establishing appropriate injury surveillance systems / trauma registry.
Pedestrian and motorcyclist mobility: space in the road infrastructure network – design and construction of roads for mobility and safety of all road users.
Identification and testing of interventions for the vulnerable road users –pedestrians and cyclists, and documentation of best practices.
Evaluation of evidence on specific risk factors, such as extent of alcohol and drug use among drivers and pedestrians,
Development and testing training and capacity building programmes in injury prevention and trauma care, and development of trauma registry and injury surveillance systems.
Elucidate the role of commercial motorcyclists (in terms of safety, appropriateness, cost-effectiveness) in Rwanda.
Evaluation of public transport systems: - do the measures such as those being used in others countries. An in-depth evaluation of the interventions is needed.
Policy issues: Institutional, political, legal and economic factors that govern the operation and safety of public transport system.
Emergency medical systems: - examining of appropriate pre-hospital emergency medical care systems that can provide timely and effective treatment to injured persons.
The day will also mark the start of the traffic week that will be observed from November 18th -28th. A number of activities have been lined up during the week. High crash incidence has largely been attributed to poor road networks, inadequate road signage, limited knowledge on road safety, poorly enforced legislation and the poor emergency-preparedness by medical facilities.
Activities lines up during the week include; painting of Zebra crossings and humps, physical sensitisation of road users by uniformed police on roads, meeting with motorists, engagement with the media, meeting with youth groups and awarding best drivers and motorcyclists.
-Make it home safe
-Make your road safe
-The best gift in the world is me
-Remember; it is only fun when you are safe
-Always maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you
-Take it slow and easy
-Think safety drive safely
-Don’t phone and drive
-Avoid bypassing blindly
-Mind about your fellow drivers
Traffic Red light
-Be on the look out
-Obey traffic rules and signals
-Where there is a policeman or traffic warden, please be patient and do what they tell you
-Seat belts save lives
-Don’t cross in between stationary vehicles ands at road bends
-Life is precious, cross safely
-Be alert on the road or risk losing lives
-Pay attention to other road users
-Inform the Police on traffic violations
-When no vehicles are coming, walk quickly straight across the road, do not run
-Keep looking and listening while you are crossing. Remember walk smartly and quickly across
-Children must always cross the road accompanied
-Always wear a helmet, it will be too late to save your life without one
Don’t drive drink and never drink and drive