Some 650 people are killed each day in road accidents throughout Africa. A senior United Nations official is calling for more to be done to keep drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists safe on our roads.
UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt said at the Africa Road Safety Conference in South Africa, “Road accidents in Africa are among the deadliest worldwide and more action needs to be taken.”
Sierra Leone wasn’t represented at the conference which ended yesterday 24 October, but Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), Public Relations Officer, Abdul Karim Dumbuya, agreed that road safety is a serious challenge in Africa.
The Authority is currently reviewing laws and developing policies especially with the one on importation of spare parts to tackle the problem of substandard vehicle products.
“The continent suffers from the highest road traffic fatality rate than any other region – despite having less than 5% of the world’s registered vehicles,” Todt said, noting the particular importance that improving road safety has in changing the lives of Africans.
According to Dumbuya, “The condition of the roads and substandard spare parts contributes to these skewed statistics. Some countries have policies on importation of vehicles but here we have some vehicles that are over forty years old and there are no policies for that.”
These challenges, he said, will deter them from achieving the goals under the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. A lot of resources are required to achieve this target. SLRSA are working with the agencies responsible for global standards: UNIDO. “We have met with them and they have assured us of their support. We have also received commitments from the World Bank and EU,” he said.
He went on to say that roads are being constructed and they need to be in the loop so that their road auditors will be able to ascertain the type and quality of materials being used. “We are setting up road safety committees across the country in an effort to reduce the rate of accidents.”
According to WHO data published in May 2014, road traffic accident death rates in Sierra Leone were 27.40 per 100,000 people. In Ghana, the rates were much the same at 24.60 per 100,000 people. However, in Guinea, our close neighbour, the death rate from road accidents was 20.33 per 100,000 people. In Liberia, the rates were 25.48 per 100,000. In the U.S. the rate is 9.99 per 100,000 and the safest country for road accident deaths is Norway at 2.86 per 100,000.
To change this trend across Africa, UN Todt urged participating governments at the conference to implement the Global Plan for the Decade of Action and the African Road Safety Action Plan, which focuses on safer roads, vehicles and road users. It also details improved post-crash care and stronger road safety governance, including the enforcement of strong legislation.
“There is a projected increase in urbanization, motorization, infrastructure development projects and vehicle ownership in the region over the coming decades. Road traffic fatalities and injuries will continue to take a rising toll on countries if no significant changes are made,” warned Todt.
He also called for implementing basic laws not currently enforced in some countries, such as using seat belts and helmets, child safety seats, and prohibiting drunk drivers.
“As much as strong legislation is important, a national vision and leadership are essential to lasting improvements in road safety,” he said, also citing opportunities to place road safety higher on global and national agendas.
The third area which could lead to reduced road traffic fatalities is to place more resources in collecting data, which can then lead to the development of strategies, monitor needs and assess impact.
Todt noted that 90% of people and goods on the African continent are moved by road. He added, “Road crashes can strip a country from realizing their true development potential.”
By Zainab Joaque
Wednesday October 25, 2017.