Africa Records Highest Road Traffic Fatality Rate

Wed, 27 Mar 2013 Source: Hinneh, Samuel

-Global Status Report On Road Safety Reveals

By Samuel Hinneh

The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013 has found that the risk of dying as a result of a road traffic injury is highest in the African Region. The African continent recorded an average of 24.1 out of 100,000 population dying as a result of road crash in a year. This means that on average out of 100,000 people the continent lose 24 people due to road traffic injuries every year. In other words in a country with 10 million inhabitants 2,400 die on the roads every year.

The regions of Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific scored 21.3 out of 100,000 and 18.5 out of 100,000 population respectively, whilst the European region scored the lowest traffic fatality rate of 10.3 per 100,000 population. The factors which account for this trend in Africa include lack of awareness of the fact that road traffic injuries are preventable and causes such as drink driving, over-speeding, lack of enforcement of legislations such as seat belt and helmet wearing have consistently plagued the continent of lives. According to Dr Martin Ekeke Monono, the Technical Officer, Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the Wold Health Organisation (WHO) inadequate data to document the magnitude, causes and consequences of these injuries contribute significantly to road crash in the African region. “Many people still consider them as ‘accidents’, random events over which we have no control. These are predictable events hence preventable. By studying these events and analysing their causes we can devise interventions to prevent them’’. “Another worrying factor which accounts for the high road crash fatality rate in Africa is lack of high political commitment. This is in part due to poor data but also due to the fact that most authorities think our problems are still limited to malaria, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

“In fact injuries are becoming one of the leading causes of death for children and young adults. This lack of commitment means governments do not make systematic and sustained investments in road safety’’, Dr Ekeke Monono emphasised.

The report, undertaken by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the second Global status report on road safety, after the first Global status report on road safety in 2009 collected baseline data (from 2010) for monitoring progress through the Decade of Action from each country.

The consequences of this trend means the continent continues to lose large numbers of people on roads, with victims of road crash who survive suffering from disability thereby leading to pain and suffering in families and communities.

The economic loss is also very considerable, given that 60% of deaths on roads affect those aged between 15 and 44 years of age. This is the active part of our people, which affects the economy by reducing productivity for both the injured and family members who have to care for the victims, increased health care costs and increased expenditure for law enforcement.

The success in Europe in reducing road crash fatality rate is due to many factors such as acceptance of the fact that road traffic injuries are predictable, therefore, preventable as well as systematic and sustained high political commitment to address the problem. The highest levels of government endorse and fund policies and plans to improve road safety, done over many years. These results have been obtained after many decades. There has been stringent enforcement of laws to reduce the risk factors such as speeding, drink driving and non-use of safety belts and helmets.

Dr Martin Ekeke Monono says African leaders need to show higher political commitment to address the problem.

They need to give clear direction for various governments and on governmental stakeholders to take appropriate measures in their respective domains to reduce road traffic injuries through policies and plans to reduce RTI have to be developed.

“All relevant sectors of government have to contribute, such as health, transport, road construction, education, justice, law enforcement, urban planning professional drivers associations, etc. and adequate funding has to be provided to implement plans.

“There should be an improvement in the care of injured people, deliberate efforts should be made to improve data concerning road traffic injuries, strict and sustained enforcement of laws on risk factors should be applied, as well as education of the general public should accompany these measures’’. According to Dr Monono Ghana has done a lot in terms of road safety, with the National Road Safety Commission doing a good job, which has in place a national road safety strategic plan. “There is an ambulance service which is working, but more needs to be done to consolidate and improve on this.

“The various road safety prevention interventions should be implemented. Importance should be given to the enforcement of laws that address risk factors such as speed, drink driving, use of seat-belts and child restraints, use of helmets.

“More political commitment and the allocation of the necessary funds should be made, road infrastructure should be improved and road user behaviour should be improved including drivers, pedestrians, cyclists etc’’.

Dr Entinne Krug, the Director of Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the WHO says African countries need to put road safety higher on the political agenda.

“Specifically Ghana, there are some positive points, have drink driving law, motorcycle helmet legislation, but there are some issues that can be improved for instance the blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08 g/dl, ideally the WTO promotes 0.005 g/dl’’. Dr Krug says the enforcement of the existing legislation on road safety needs to be improved as well as paying much more attention to pedestrian safety will go a long way to reduce road crash

“The motorcycle helmet legislation exists but there is no helmet standard to promote the use of it, and is important for Ghana to have a serious look at that to reduce road crash’’.

Mr Kwame Koduah Atuahene, the Communications Manager of Ghana’s National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), says the African situation appears to be improving in some regards, but if u put African situation in global perspectives, it gives a cause for concern.

“It is so because we appear not to appreciate safety the way Europe looks at them. Government of African countries will have to begin to take bold decisions in the form of making road safety a priority to commit resources and investing financially in that sector to reduce the number of deaths on roads, especially given that we do not have too many vehicles on our roads’’.

Columnist: Hinneh, Samuel