Road safety begins with you and me

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The statistics are extremely frightening. And although many of us don’t think too seriously about the trauma caused by road traffic crashes, the fact is these have far more implications than the burden it places on health care systems and national resources.

The most serious and personal one of them all is the heartaches it brings.

Indeed, we are talking about lives, precious lives that did not have to be wasted. Men, women and children who could have been spared to contribute to the development of this nation and the world we live in. 

How many more people must suffer and die? How many more people have to grieve for the loss of a loved one or loved ones for all of us to wake up and realise we all have a role to play in road safety? 

Let’s look at some numbers. According to statistics provided by the W.H.O, nearly 900 people are killed each day on the roads in this region.

For a small country with a small population, Samoa is not immune. We have one of the highest road fatality figures in the region. Between 2009 and 2010 for instance, more than 50 people were killed on our roads. Many of them were young children. 

These figures cannot be ignored. Let me remind you again that we are talking about people, precious lives. Their deaths could have been prevented.

On a global scale, about 1.24 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes—that’s nearly 3400 deaths a day. 

Further, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death globally among people aged 15–29 years. Without action, W.H.O predicts that annual road traffic deaths will increase to around 1.9 million by 2030 and to become the seventh leading cause of death. 

With that in mind, the United Nations has declared that the number of “wasted lives” represents a “public health crisis” which has a “terrible impact on individuals, communities and countries.” 

We couldn’t agree more. Samoa as a country has woken up to the fact.

On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, the government has launched a nationwide campaign to get people to think about road safety and what it means to you and me.

The Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang is taking the lead. 

 “Road safety is a serious issue in Samoa as we still experience continuous occurrence of road accidents resulting in fatal injuries and the unexpected loss of many precious lives,” he said.

 “This is due to a number of factors which include: careless driving, excess speeding, drinking and driving, non-use of seatbelts, continuous use of mobile cell phones while driving, using unfit and unregistered vehicles on the road, as well as insufficiently maintained roads, which is some of the major causes of incidents and traffic related incidents.”

The Minister reminded that road traffic deaths have long lasting effects.

Last week, W.H.O’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Puleleiite Dr. Shin Young-Soo, made a similar point.

“Each one of these deaths is a tragedy that could and should have been prevented. Even those who survive horrible crashes often end up with lifelong disability,” he said.

And that brings us to the United Nations Global Road Safety Week. The campaign is an opportunity to reflect on the magnitude of road traffic injuries and the urgent need to scale up action to prevent road crashes. 

The theme for this year’s campaign is managing speed to keep roads safe for pedestrians and other road users. Research shows that reducing average travelling speeds by just 5per cent could reduce fatal road crashes by 30per cent.

“If every vehicle on every road slowed down even a little, there would be fewer crashes – and certainly fewer serious injuries and deaths,’’ said Puleleiite.

 “I have heard people say that death and injury on the road are an inevitable consequence of transport, motorization, and rapid economic development – and therefore that nothing can be done. This is wrong.

“Road traffic injuries and deaths are not “accidents” because they can be prevented.”

Puleleiite couldn’t have worded it better. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to road safety – and we are not just talking about drivers. We are talking about all road users – including pedestrians. Road safety begins with you and me. Let’s make an effort to protect ourselves and others around us. 

Have a safe weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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