By Aisha Tamba
A comprehensive National Road Safety Strategy (2020 – 2030) was validated for formulation by stakeholders at a workshop on Tuesday. Addressing the meeting, Works and Transport minister Bai Lamin Jobe said it is evident that road crashes are a growing public health problem in The Gambia. “On average, 115 people die annually as a result of road traffic accidents in The Gambia. Police accident statistics data indicate that, on average, 775 road traffic accidents/crashes/incidents occur annually, and about 62 of these are fatal. In addition to the deaths, about 169 people sustain serious injuries (requiring hospitalization) each year as a result of road traffic accidents. Whilst road traffic accidents are now common occurrences in the country, 2018 has registered an alarming increase in the number of fatal accidents,” the minister said.
He added that between 1 January and 1 September 2018, a total of 71 fatal accidents/crashes were reported across the country, 24 (about 47%) of which occurred in the West Coast Region alone. ”Available police reports indicate several key risk factors responsible for most of the accidents: poor road conditions, human error and poor vehicle conditions.
“The problem continues rising since then. What even makes this statistic worrying is the fact that the World Health Organization estimated in 2015 that for every one fatality recorded in The Gambia, four fatalities occurred. The Global Burden of Disease Study estimates that in 2016 road traffic injury is the 7th highest cause of death for Gambians aged 5-49, and the 12th highest cause of disability for the whole population,” Mr Jobe reported.
He said the socio-economic cost of road trauma in 2013 for The Gambia has been estimated at USD 63.5 million, or over GMD 2 Billion, and is likely to have increased significantly since then.
He also said the development of a National Road Safety Strategy could not come at a better time as National Transport Policy got updated two years ago, the document in which Road Safety Policy is embedded in.
“You will all bear with me that for any Government to deliver on its road safety improvement efforts, it must formulate the requisite road safety policies and clear strategies to guide and set standards in delivering Government’s long-term road safety objectives. Cognizant of this fact, the Ministry of Transport Works and Infrastructure thought it prudent to formulate a National Road Safety Strategy with clear targets. This is essential for The Gambia as a country if we are serious about improving our road safety. The sad news is that ‘in richer countries, the deaths and injuries are slowly decreasing, but in the poorer ones, they are still increasing rapidly. Victims and survivors are often young, leaving families to cope with the loss of a breadwinner. Not everyone is equally affected by the lack of road safety though. In high-income countries, most victims and survivors are vehicle occupants, while in low-income and middle-income like The Gambia, victims are mostly pedestrians and other vulnerable road users,” he said
Minister Jobe said it is disheartening to learn that most of these deaths, injuries and economic losses can be prevented, but are not prevented in developing countries like ours.