Lucien W. Jones | Road safety must be part of wider plan to improve and sustain national development
May 15-21 is designated UN Global Road Safety Week, and the National Road Safety Council in Jamaica encourages all persons to celebrate this event. Why? Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with around 1.3 million people killed and as many as 50 million people injured each year. For persons aged 5-29 years, there is no greater threat to their lives.
Globally, one of every four deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists. Jamaica’s road fatality numbers as of Thursday, May 18, is still alarmingly high, although less than last year. 156 road deaths, with over 40 motorcyclists and over 40 pedestrian deaths.
The Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which Jamaica has signed on to, reflects an ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2030. It highlights that they can be prevented by addressing the whole of the transport system, taking action to ensure safe roads, vehicles, and behaviours as well as to improve emergency care.
WHO, in collaboration with partners, organises periodic UN Global Road Safety Week. This seventh edition focuses on sustainable transport, in particular the need to shift to walking, cycling, and using public transport. Road safety is both a prerequisite for and an outcome of this shift.
To ensure safety, the WHO recommends that road networks must be designed with the most at risk in mind. Furthermore, people-centered roads and road networks are planned, designed, built, and operated to eliminate risks of road traffic fatalities and injuries. Historically, most of the world’s roads have been designed for cars. The number of vehicles is increasing every day. In some countries, cars are also increasing in size, posing an even greater danger to those outside of these vehicles.
We need to redesign streets for people, starting with those most at risk of injury: children and adolescents, people with disabilities, pedestrians, cyclists, and users of public transport. Roads designed for them not only ensure that they are safe for all, but also facilitate the transfer across different modes of transport for everyone.
SAFE WALKING AND CYCLING
Another one of the recommendations by the WHO, and highlighted recently by the inmister of health in his sectoral speech, is that making way for more walking and cycling can have a favourable on health and the environment through reductions in non-communicable diseases like heart and lung disease, cancer, and diabetes and decreases in air and noise pollution. These modes also contribute to sustainable urbanisation, meaning cities that are built for the well-being of humans and the environment for future generations.
Safe walking and cycling also help to promote more equitable societies, where people of all socioe-conomic levels have the same degree of access to what their cities offer. Issues that are fully supported by the National Road Safety Council and are part of the overarching Safe Systems approach, which is a policy directive guiding our interventions, are Safe Roads, Safe Speeds, Safe Vehicles, Safe Road Users, and an efficient Post-Crash Systems.
The 7th UN Global Road Safety Week offers an opportunity to spur action at national and local levels to rethink mobility and highlights concrete and specific actions that can be taken by different stakeholders, including governments, civil society, businesses, schools, etc, to promote and facilitate a shift to safe, healthy, green and sustainable modes of transport.
From free public transport days to pop up bicycle lanes, walkability/cyclability studies, travel diaries and walk to school days, among many others, these activities will help to showcase how we can collectively rethink and redo mobility. All of which are not possible right now in Jamaica, but these are recommendations that can be implemented in the near future, and can make a huge difference in road safety and the environment and personal health if from now we begin to re-imagine road safety.
No longer can road safety be thought of as belonging to a silo, being pursued as a single objective, but be part of the wider plan to improve and sustain our national development.
Dr. Lucien W. Jones MB.BS. CD, is the vice chairman of the National Road Safety Council. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org