Ahead of elections, is road safety a priority on party agendas?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2013 report, 1.24 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. The findings of the report indicate that Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years. These numbers are frightening, considering that many of these crashes can be prevented.
South Africa has a road traffic fatality rate that is higher than the global average. Furthermore the International Transport Forum’s 2013 Report on Road Safety estimated the economic cost of South Africa’s road crashes to be R307 billion each year, which is taxpayers money that could be spent elsewhere to better the country. With elections coming up, one would expect Road Safety to be high on the campaigning parties’ agendas but their manifestos do not reflect this as a priority.
While South Africa is a signatory of the United Nations Resolution on the Decade of Action, which aims to reduce road crashes by 50 percent until 2020, it is clear that little has been done to create change or prevent road deaths during the busiest times of the year as the number of crashes around Easter and the festive season is still unacceptably high.
“The long term effects of road crashes, fatal or otherwise, are devastating, as those who remain behind face a bleak future without a source of income sometimes. It is also important to note that crashes happen daily and are not confined to specific reasons; law enforcement should take place throughout the year and not just at certain periods,” said the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA).
WHO suggests effective interventions such as designing safer infrastructure and incorporating road safety into land use and transport planning, but despite there being several strategies from the various transport bodies in South Africa, there is still no policy framework for road safety in evidence. “It is no secret that many of our provincial roads are not in a good condition which compromises road safety. It is therefore important that during the design phase of road construction, everyone in the construction value chain prioritises safety for every road they build taking into account vulnerable road users,” the AA said.
“Concerted effort is needed to make road infrastructure safer for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Their needs must be taken into account when road safety policy, transport planning and land use decisions are being made. “Improving the safety features of vehicles as well as post-crash care of victims of crashes is also key,” concluded the AA.