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Keeping our roads safe

  • Published at 12:04 am May 13th, 2019
Road Accident
Photo: RAJIB DHAR

We need to address road safety at the policy level 

The 5th UN Global Road Safety Week is being celebrated across the world with the theme “#speakup to save lives.” To achieve the road safety targets, including SDG target 3.6, it is required to have enlightened leaders capable of providing a vision of what the future might look like.

This theme calls for strong leadership for road safety in governments, UN agencies, and civil societies. The celebration has been an inspiration for NGOs, foundations, schools, and universities to resolutely implement meaningful interventions in road safety.

According to WHO, nearly 1.3 million people die in road traffic crashes every year -- which averages as more than 3,000 deaths every day. Of these, nearly 400,000 young people under the age of 25 are killed. Millions more are injured or disabled. Road traffic crashes is the leading cause of death among young people globally.

Deaths and damage of properties caused by road accidents have become a daily and deadly phenomenon in Bangladesh, which has one of the worst crash rates in the world, at more than 60 per 10,000 registered motor vehicles. Studies and research show multifaceted causes of road crash ranging from population explosion, unplanned urbanization, and tremendous growth of motorized as well as non-motorized and para-transit vehicles.

UN launched the Road Safety Strategy, which aims to meet the road safety targets in the SDGs, early this year. The goal is to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020. The target to save lives is indeed very ambitious but not unachievable with everyone taking the responsibility to support it.

The campaign, designed for this year’s Road Safety Week, aligns with the principles of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. It advocates for a more comprehensive education of risks on the road, as well as, traffic regulations, and encourages all of us to demand road safety interventions that are evidence-based and proven to work. 

Road Safety Week kicked off just after the sixth global meeting of NGOs advocating for road safety held during April 9-13. Around 270 road safety activists attending the global meeting observed that, despite notable progress in raising road safety to the global agenda, road crashes are now estimated to kill around 1.35 million people every year.

Road accidents need to be dealt with the principles of prevention, attention, and compensation. Thus, Road Safety Week this year has primarily targeted civil society organizations and policy-makers in charge of road safety designed to explore the risk people face on their daily travels. These would ideally result in actions to improve road safety management; make roads, vehicles and road users safer; and enhance emergency and trauma care following a crash.

In any human attempt to reduce fatalities from a road crash, proper legislation and effective enforcement are imperative. During the pre-crash period, prevention and attention are associated with the capacity and skill of all concerned. BRTA, which should take the lead in managing road crash issues, clearly lacks the capacity and skill and are not equipped well enough to handle the current demand.

In Bangladesh, a road safety panel has been formulated, comprising influential people and policy-makers, which has prepared 111 recommendations including the creation of “road safety authority” under the direct supervision of the PM. The set of recommendations include provision for creating social awareness, enhancing skills of drivers including the adoption of disciplinary arrangements, improving Infrastructure and developing a monitoring system to oversee the safety issues.

Leadership for road safety has been the key component of efforts at national and local levels which will be further discussed as an important theme during the third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety to be hosted by the Government of Sweden in Stockholm on February 2020.

Delegates from around the world -- from sectors such as transport, health, interior, and others -- will review progress in the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and define the urgent steps needed to accelerate action to reach road safety targets, including the 12 newly established global performance targets. 

Sadrul Hasan Mazumder is a Policy Activist and Coordinator of Safe Road and Transport Alliance (SROTA).