By Sarja Jarjusey
Imagine how it could be when we are called, or even when our door is knocked with dread, only to be told that a loved one has been killed or seriously injured in a road traffic crash.
We shiver as emergency vehicles speed pass us on the road to attend a crash. Our hearts miss a beat as we hear about a “road accident” on the news. But road traffic crashes are not “accidents”. They are completely preventable.
According to WHO, the problem is getting worse. Deaths from road traffic crashes have increased to 1.35 million a year. That’s nearly 3, 700 people dying on the world’s roads every day. Tens of millions more are injured or disabled every year, people who suffer life-altering injuries with long-lasting effects. These losses take a huge toll on families and communities. The cost of emergency response, health care, and human grief is immense.
There are many attributed factors to this trend: rapid urbanization, poor safety standards, lack of enforcement, distracted or fatigued driving, and others even under the influence of drugs or alcohol; speeding and failure to wear seat-belts or helmets.
One of the most heart-breaking statistics in this report is that, road traffic injury is the leading cause of death for people aged between 5 and 29 years. No child should die or be seriously injured while they walk, cycle or play. We must return our streets to our children. They have a right to feel safe on them. In the Sustainable Development Goals, world leaders have committed to halve the number of deaths from road crashes by 2020. But, this target was not met.
There is an urgent need to scale up evidence-based interventions and investment. Development is an opportunity for low and middle-income countries to avoid the costly mistakes made in the past by high-income countries. We need to create cities and transport systems that reduce reliance on cars. We must apply the lessons we have learned about safe road design. With the right leadership investment, countries can build in the safeguards and best practices to save lives.
Finally, our hearts won’t stop grieving unless we have a better road where our children can play on street, and family can be comfortable without fear upon hearing the sound of ambulance.
Unless we take road traffic crashes seriously by learning from the past and countries with low incidents, we will continue to record more deaths and more disability lives.