African States pledges road safety


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 16th May. UN road safety conventions on Monday said that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among African youth, so governments across the continent have resolved to drive in a new unified direction, ahead of Road Safety Week, observed 15 to 21 May.

UN agency noyted that increasingly grim accident statistics provided the impetus for action, including two bus crashes in Senegal that claimed 62 lives in January.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the daily number of fatal road accidents has risen to 46, from 12 in 2012.

According to the UN Economic Commission for Europe the sub-Saharan Africa’s fatality rate is 27 per 100,000 inhabitants in the world’s region most affected by road crashes.

UN road safety conventions said that it is three times higher than Europe’s average of nine and well above the global average of 18, which manages 59 of the Organization’s legal instruments on inland transport.

WHO said that every year, 1.3 million people around the world are killed as a result of road crashes, and millions more are injured.

UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt said in Africa, traffic deaths account for about one quarter of the global number of victims, even though the continent has 2 per cent of the world’s vehicle fleet, who returned from a visit to the streets and highways of West Africa.

“Africa is particularly affected by the tragedy of road accidents, which is the leading cause of youth mortality,” he said.

Mr. Todt said the right investment can save lives, as he met with authorities and civil society in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.

UNECE said that governments, the private sector, and civil society, with help from the UN Road Safety Fund are partnering in a new project that ultimately aims at reducing traffic deaths and ensuring vehicle safety

The initiative supports regulating the export and import of used vehicles in Africa regarding regulations and technical inspections. One of the goals is to import safer and environmentally friendly vehicles in Africa to avoid tragic accidents.

The first harmonized approach in Africa to regulate imported used vehicles, the project, when fully implemented, will have a “significant impact” on the environment, health, and road safety, the agency said.

African countries are committing to strengthening reporting on road crash fatalities.

These bus accidents have highlighted the obsolescence of fleets of vehicles in both countries alongside a lack of technical control and a failure to comply with highway codes, the agency said.

UNECE said that addressing obsolete vehicle fleets requires special attention in West Africa added that Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire mainly rely on imports of heavily used vehicles.

According to the UN Environment Programme, in 2016, the average age of the vehicle fleet in Senegal was 18 years, with 40 per cent older than 20 years.

Senegal had enacted a decree in 2001 limiting the age of imported cars to 5 years, amending it in 2012 to 8 years, UNECE said.

The agency reported that the efforts are being made to protect the most vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians and cyclists, who are often the poorest and youngest.

Africa has the highest proportion of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, accounted for 44 per cent of the total number of road deaths.

The road accidents trap countries in a vicious cycle of poverty in addition to the human tragedy.

According to the World Bank, the cost of road accidents represents 8 per cent of Senegal’s annual GDP and 7.8 per cent of Côte d’Ivoire’s.

The agency said that drunk driving, speeding, drowsiness, negligence, non-use of seat belts and helmets, and non-compliance with traffic regulations are the main cause of road accidents in Africa.

The ageing vehicle fleet in public transport, false licenses, lack of enforcement of penalties, and a dearth of rigorous technical inspections are other factors..

The solutions to be implemented include the need to strengthen health services for crash victims, and adherence to the African Road Safety Charter and the UN Basic Conventions on Road Safety.

INECE said that raising awareness also plays a key role.

The agency cited a national road safety plan, with 22 measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries by at least 50 per cent

Actions span from strengthening road controls to limiting the circulation of public transport vehicles.

It means banning the importation of used tires, providing free technical control in Dakar for transport and goods vehicles, and opening technical control centres across the country.

In Côte d’Ivoire, new initiatives are strengthening road safety laws and creating a traffic police force.

Government decided in 2021 to enforce helmet wearing for all cyclists after many fatal accidents in the north of the country.

UNECE said that commitments are there be it in Senegal or in Côte d’Ivoire, added that what remains is the most difficult part: implementation and measuring progress.

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