Grim global sta­tus re­port on road safety

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - GUNDOWEILER

To­day, 3,700 peo­ple will die on the world’s roads. The same will hap­pen to­mor­row, and in all the days to fol­low. Many who die will be chil­dren and young adults. For peo­ple aged 5-29 years, there is no greater threat to their lives than a road traf­fic crash.

Many who die will be poor. In fact, a per­son is three times more likely to die of a road traf­fic col­li­sion in a low-in­come coun­try than in a high-in­come coun­try. While low-in­come coun­tries have 1 per­cent of the world’s ve­hi­cles, they con­sti­tute 13 per­cent of the world’s deaths.

More than half of vic­tims of fa­tal crashes are pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists and mo­tor­cy­clists. In other words, they are peo­ple who are not trav­el­ing in cars. Most would not even be able to af­ford one.

Yet most trans­porta­tion sys­tems around the world have been de­signed for mo­tor ve­hi­cles. The price we have paid for this is un­ac­cept­ably high.

It is time for coun­tries to muster the nec­es­sary po­lit­i­cal will and adopt a wholeof-gov­ern­ment and whole-of-so­ci­ety ap­proach to pre­vent these tragedies. With the up­com­ing elec­tions, we should de­mand that road safety and health­ier trans­porta­tion be a top po­lit­i­cal agenda so we can pro­tect the lives of Filipinos.

Ig­no­rance about what to do is no ex­cuse, be­cause strate­gies are known and have been proven to pre­vent road traf­fic deaths and in­juries in many coun­tries.

They in­clude bet­ter leg­is­la­tion around risks such as speed­ing and fail­ing to use seat­belts and hel­mets; safer road in­fra­struc­ture like side­walks and ded­i­cated lanes for cy­clists and mo­tor­cy­clists; im­proved ve­hi­cle stan­dards such as those that man­date elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and ad­vanced brak­ing; and en­hanced emer­gency care ser­vices.

In the Philip­pines, there are al­ready laws on man­ag­ing speed, seat­belt and hel­met use, drug and drunk driv­ing, and dis­tracted driv­ing. But sound and wide­spread en­force­ment of these reg­u­la­tions re­main a ma­jor chal­lenge. A bill on child re­straints has been passed by Congress and will soon be­come a law once signed by the Pres­i­dent. There are ex­ist­ing bills on pedes­trian safety, trans­porta­tion safety and emer­gency med­i­cal sys­tems. All of these leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives con­trib­ute to­ward bet­ter road safety in the coun­try.

A new re­port by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, how­ever, notes that while these mea­sures have con­trib­uted to re­duc­tions in road traf­fic deaths in re­cent years in 48 mid­dle- and high-in­come coun­tries, the sit­u­a­tion is get­ting worse in 104 coun­tries. Not a sin­gle low-in­come coun­try has demon­strated a re­duc­tion in over­all deaths, in large part be­cause these in­ter­ven­tions are lack­ing.

This can be seen in the Philip­pines, where the death rate from road crashes has con­tin­u­ally in­creased over the years de­spite var­i­ous ef­forts by gov­ern­ment and other road safety stake­hold­ers. Data from the Philip­pine Statis­tics Au­thor­ity in­di­cate that there were 11,274 deaths from road crashes in 2016, 65 per­cent higher than the 6,916 deaths reg­is­tered in 2006. The gov­ern­ment, through its Philip­pine Road Safety Ac­tion Plan 2017-2022, now seeks to turn the tide and re­duce road traf­fic deaths by 20 per­cent by 2022.

The more we make progress to­ward recon­ceiv­ing the way our road net­works are de­signed, op­er­ated and funded for the ben­e­fit of all who use them, the bet­ter off we will be.

Safer roads will not only pre­vent in­jury, they will also al­low for more walk­ing and cy­cling. This would in turn help to pre­vent some of the lead­ing causes of death and dis­abil­ity, like heart and lung dis­eases, can­cer, di­a­betes and de­pres­sion.

In terms of the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals, to which gov­ern­ments agreed in 2015, en­sur­ing safety on the roads will fa­cil­i­tate achieve­ment not only of the tar­gets linked to road safety, but also to those as­so­ci­ated with health, en­vi­ron­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment, among oth­ers.

They are all pred­i­cated on be­ing able to move around in safety.

Safe roads will also en­sure the liv­abil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of our cities, where more than half of the world’s peo­ple cur­rently live.

It is at both na­tional and mu­nic­i­pal lev­els that dras­tic ac­tion is needed to re­verse cur­rent trends, achieve the tar­gets we have set for our­selves, and save mil­lions of lives.

In the few mo­ments you have read this, an­other 10 of the to­tal 1.35 mil­lion an­nual road traf­fic deaths will have oc­curred, shat­ter­ing lives for­ever. It is time to put an end to this man­made dis­as­ter.

[The global sta­tus re­port on road safety 2018 can be ac­cessed at http://www.who.int/vi­o­lence_in­jury_pre­ven­tion/road­_safe­ty_s­ta­tus/2018/en/]

———— Dr. Gundo Weiler is the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the Philip­pines.

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