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The Challenges Of Road Safety In The 21st Century
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The Challenges Of Road Safety In The 21st Century
Quite simple...It issues a call for action...reflective upon World Health Day 2004.
[1,353 words]
Kennedy O Obohwemu
Medical Doctor, Publisher, Editor, Novelist, Playwright, Poet

Dr. Kenís books {Book 1: Frozen, Book 2: Nightfall, and the Omnibus Edition (paperback)} are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple:

Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/doctorken
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/zQm9I
Apple: http://goo.gl/QYpqH4
[August 2014]
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The Challenges Of Road Safety In The 21st Century
Kennedy O Obohwemu

  For far too long,road safety has been treated as a transportation issue,not a public health issue.Many
countries around the world have put far less effort into understanding and preventing road traffic injuries
than they do into understanding and preventing diseases that do less harm.
  That road safety is the issue on the minds of experts for year 2004 is applaudable.The World Health
Organisation(WHO)has chosen "Road Safety" as the theme for 2004,with the slogan "Road Safety Is No Accident".
The organisation is aware of the alarming increase in road traffic crashes,a pressing issue that has disturbed
the minds of everyone on the street,vehicle-users and passers-by alike.From the youngest child to the most
senior officers of government,no individual is absolutely free from the risk of developing road traffic injuries.
Everyone is at least a potential victim.
   Everyday,as many as 140 000 people are injured on the world's roads.More than 1.2 million are killed on the
road annually.Over 3000 die and some 15 000 are disabled for life.Each of those people has a network of family,
friends,neighbours,colleagues or classmates who are also affected,emotionally and otherwise.
   The WHO Director General,Dr.Lee JONG-wook,has lamented the state of affairs."...Families struggle with poverty
when they lose a breadwinner or have the added expense of caring for disabled family members".He fears that if
the trend continues,"...by 2020,the numbers of people killed and disabled on the world's roads will have grown by
more than 60% ..." This will make road traffic injuries to number THREE on WHO's list of leading contributors to
the global burden of disease and injury.
   In some low and middle income countries,road crash victims occupy up to 10% of hospital beds.These countries
indeed account for a disproportionate share of the global burden of road traffic injuries.Annual deaths from all
types of injuries are projected at to rise from 5.1 million in 1990 to 8.4 million in 2020-with road traffic
injuries as a major cause for this increase.In 2002 the global rate of death from road traffic injuries was 19.0
per 100 000 people.The rate was however,at 12.6 in high-income countries and higher,at 20.2,in low-income and
middle-income countries.The rates were lowest in high-income countries of Europe,averaging 11.0 and going as low
as 5.4 in the United Kingdom.The rates were highest in low-income and middle-income countries of Africa and the
Eastern Mediterranean region,averaging 28.3 and 26.3 per 100 000 people respectively.
   The trend is disturbing indeed.Perhaps more disturbing is the economic cost involving loss of manpower
and resources,given the prevailing trend of events.Globally,economic costs of road traffic injuries are estimated
at US$518 billion per year.In low-income and middle-income countries,the costs are estimated to be US$100 billion
twice the annual amount of development aid to developing countries.Altogether,road traffic injuries cost
high-income countries an estimated average of 2% of their Gross National Product(GNP).
    Already established,low-income and middle-income countries account for a disproportionate share of the global
burden of road traffic injuries.Folllowing this premise,road users most likely to be injured in crashes can be
identified -pedestrians and riders of bicycles,motorcycles and mopeds.These "vulnerable road users",per kilometer
travelled,are at far greater risk than the drivers and passengers of cars and large motor vehicles.
    In all countries,males of any particular ageare more likely to be injured than females of that same
age.The WHO estimated that in 2002,the global rate of death from road traffic injuries was 19.0 per 100 000 people.
The rate was 27.6 per 100 000 males and 10.4 per 100 000 females.Males were almost 3 times more likely as females
to be killed in a road traffic collision
.Globally,adults from age 35 to 44 years account for more than 50% of all
road traffic deaths;roughly 3 out of 4 of those killed are male.
    Older peoplemay be less alert and agile than others,and therefore more prone to becoming involved in road
crashes.The WHO estimated that in 2002 the rate of death from road traffic injury in the Eastern Mediterranean Region
was 26.3 per 100 000 people,but it was 116.3 per 100 000 males who were 60 years of age and older and 46.0 per 100 000
females of that age.
     Children,especially poor ones,are likely victims of road traffic injuries.Every year,more than 180 000
children under 15 years of age are killed in road crashes and hundreds of thousands are disabled for life.In 2002,
going by WHO estimate,of all children killed,96% were from low-income and middle-income countries.When a poor child
is injured,he or she usually gets less than the best medical care available in the country.As a result,the child's
injuries are more likely to result in death or disability.
     One may at this point identify the risk factors predisposing the vehicle-user or passer-by to road traffic
injuries.The vehicle designmay be of interest here.Not all vehicle users can boast of crash protection such
as air bags for occupants,and vehicle soft fronts for those who may be struck by vehicles.Far too little attention
has been paid to this aspect of motor vehicles design,even in those countries with the best road safety records.
     When,on 17 August 1896,Bridget Driscoll,a 44-year old mother of two,became the first person ever killed by a
motor vehicle,the consensus reached by relevant authorities was simple - "This must never happen again!".Unfortunately
it has happened again,even tens of millions of times!The driver of the vehicle,a young man,was giving free rides to
demonstrate a new invention,just outside Crystal Palace in London.Witnesses said the car was going at tremendous
.(The young man was trying to impress a young female passenger).Inappropriate and excessive speed is a major
risk factor for road traffic crashes and injuries apllcable to the personal habitsof the vehicle-user.Other
factors include the inability to interprete road signs,presence of alcohol and other drugs,non-use of seat-belts
and child restraint by vehicle users,fatigue,travelling in darkness,poor vehicle maintenance culture,poor eyesight,
making calls while driving,and a host of other factors.
      The environmentis another potent factor affecting the vehicle user's performance at wheels.Unfavourable
weather conditions affect visibility,and poor visibility is akin to injury.Climatic factors,the harmattan,mirages,fogs,
vegetation,poorly maintained roads,broken down vehicles,are not uncommon elements predisposing the road user to injury.
Air pollution,noise pollution,and land degradation are leading factors.
      Comparing what different countries have achieved,one is left with no doubt that what works best is a scientific,
comprehensive and systematic approach,coordinated by one agency given clear authority by national government.The agency
should be staffed by professionals and be independent of road building and other agencies that may have conflicts of
interest because they are not dedicated just to promoting public health through road safety,but also to mobility and
other objectives that may conflict with safety.
      For sempiternal solutions,let road safety be viewed as a political priority.Appropriate road safety targets need
be set,and national road safety plans executed.Governments should enact and enforce legislation requiring the use
of seat-belts and motorcycle helmets,spped limits and the control of alcohol impaired driving.Road safety considerations
need be embedded in environmental and other assessments for new projects and the analysis of transport policies and plans.
Let funding of road infrastructure be made conditional upon compliance with safety standards.Budget lines for road safety
can then be created and increased investment in demonstrably effective road safety activities ensured.
      In areas of public health,effective science-based information need be translated into policies and practices that
protect vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users.Prehospital and hospital care need be strengthened as well as
rehabilitation services for all trauma victims.Making funding for road safety part of grants for health,transport,
environmental or educational programmes will prove worthwhile.A good supplement would be to generate machanisms for
providing such fundingfor knowledge sharing and safety promotion in developing countries.
      Road safety has failed to be addressed comprehensivrly in the past.For one thing,people take a fatalistic attitude
on the subject.Many of the risks associated with road crashes are entirely within our control,most crashes and injuries
are preventable and,therfore,not entirely accidental.Again,people rae not fully aware that road crashes do so much harm.
Nor do they realise that many crashes can be prevented and the adverse health consequences of many others can be reduced.
      Improving road safety requires deliberate efforts by governments and its many partners.This piece issues a call for
action ,that all hands be on deck to reduce to the barest minimum,if not totally annihilate,the menace of road traffic
injuries in our society today for a better tomorrow.May our actions forever speak louder than our words.


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© 2004 Kennedy O Obohwemu
May 2004

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