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Global Ministerial Conference Highlights SA's Commitment to Road Safety

The recent convention of transport authorities from across the world at the United Nations decade of action on Road Safety forum in Moscow last week saw the International Transport Forum (ITF) call countries to action. Countries were called upon to dramatically improve road safety by applying a more comprehensive approach to road safety."Road deaths are known to be one of South Africa's biggest killers and tackling the problem at a government level is imperative", said the AA.

The conference was the first to bring together Ministerial representatives on a global scale. It was requested by the UN General Assembly and hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation and represents a historic opportunity to make progress on tackling a leading cause of death and disability. As many as 1000 government ministers, representatives of UN agencies, officials from civil society organisations, leaders of private companies and many other road safety experts, participated in the event.

The solution to dramatically reducing the number of road-related fatalities, which now stands at about 1 300 000 deaths a year world-wide, is to take a systematic approach to the problem comprising electing a lead agency, formatting policy and effecting policy. South Africa has all three structures firmly in place and is a signatory to the Decade of Action following the 2002 Accra declaration and, more recently, the Tanzania declaration in July this year. "While the structures of international best practice are firmly in place, there is still a need for us to monitor what progress we make carefully to ensure success, and the AA is committed to lending their full support to the campaign to ensure we see results", adds the AA.

South Africa was aptly represented at the conference by Minister S'bu Ndebele who gave a gripping account of the state of South Africa's roads to the international audience. His presentation highlighted the issues faced on our South African roads using real life footage which alerted many to the real problems being faced in South Africa with regards to road deaths. The implication of being a signatory commits our government, fully endorsed in their efforts by the AA, to contributing towards the global reduction of road crashes and fatalities by 50% by 2020.

At the conference, the ITF released a summary of Transport Ministries' recommendations on road safety made over the last 40 years (www.internationaltransportforum.org/Pub/pdf/09CDsr/index.pdf). The decisions underline the changing approach to road safety in the best performing countries as they moved from a narrow range of specific interventions to a more comprehensive approach, with the safe system approach standing out as the most effective.

It was recommended that the immediate focus be on developing countries where vehicle use and ownership is increasing quickly. While countries need to analyse their own circumstances and act accordingly, it is imperative that we share best practice through international exchange of experience, and the information shared at the Moscow convention provided an excellent platform for us to learn and consequently take action", concludes the AA.

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