Making our roads safer: World day for road traffic victims

November 19, 2017

According to The World Health Organization, 1.25 million people are killed and as many as 50 million people are injured in road crashes every year. Road crash ranked as the 11th leading cause of death globally, and around 90% of the 1.25 million deaths caused by road crashes each year occur in developing countries. Road injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29.

The UN World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/5, observed every third Sunday in November, is a major advocacy day for road traffic injury prevention. This year’s theme- “reduce road fatalities and serious injuries by 50%”- has been framed in line with the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–20 and has reaffirmed the importance of drawing urgent measures to reduce the prevalence of road crash.

Speeding, impaired driving (due to alcohol/drugs/fatigue), not wearing seat belts or helmets, and texting are some of the factors that lead to road crash.

Unsafe road infrastructure has been found to be an important contributing factor to road crash and the design of roads has a considerable impact on safety. Ideally, roads should be designed keeping in mind the safety of all road users. This would mean ensuring that there are adequate facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points, and other traffic calming measures are critical to reducing the risk of injury among road users.

Dr Md Shamsul Hoque, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, is a road safety expert. During his research, he found that many road crashes took place due to infrastructural issues rather than vehicular speed, etc.

A BRAC study shows that even though road crashes mostly happen on highways, the actual spots on these highways where the bulk of the crashes occur are bus stands (41%), road intersection points (17.8%) and marketplaces (28%). The study also found that majority of the road crashes occur in crowded spots or intersections rather than isolated stretches on highways- contrary to popular belief. This is a reminder that enforcement of traffic laws and vigilance of traffic police are the need of the hour.

Safe vehicles play a critical role in averting road crashes and reducing the likelihood of serious injury. Dr Md Shamsul Hoque in his research study shows that faulty design of vehicles alone contributed greatly to the increase in road crash fatalities. BRAC has taken into consideration a set of recommendations to enhance the capacity of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA)- the lone institute in charge of ensuring fitness of vehicles and certifying their credentials.

The first one hour after a road crash- globally known as the “golden hour”- is crucial. This is when early medical care might prevent fatalities or dire consequences from an injury. Sadly, however, both private and public health service providers in South Asia, including Bangladesh, have historically been negligent about providing emergency medical services to road accident victims. Furthermore, Good Samaritans are usually fearful of legal consequences, harassment, etc.

Road crash fatalities are not just an inevitable concomitant of development. These fatalities can be prevented and minimised through judicious and timely action.

SDG 11.2 calls to “provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons” by 2030. The aspiration set by the SDGs now requires the Bangladesh government to intensify its efforts in coordinating road safety actions- be it legislative reforms or ensuring effective enforcement of existing laws and policies.


Originally posted on The Daily Star.

Sadrul Hasan Mazumder is programme coordinator at Advocacy for Social Change, BRAC and coordinator at Safe Road and Transport Alliance (SROTA).