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Is road traffic injury in SA not A crisis?

07 January 2013, 14:59

About 40 people died in Marikana earlier in 2012. A high-powered Judicial Commission of enquiry was set up to find the facts around the deaths and hopefully to prevent a recurrence. However, from 1/12/2012 to date, at least One thousand Two Hundred people all over South Africa died, and, this seems to be a non-event!

“Zuma concerned about CAR violence

2013-01-03 07:33 Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has sent a minister to assess the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), the international relations and co-operation department said on Wednesday.”

 I rushed excited to read the story above, only to find it was NOT about Road Traffic Injury!

A road traffic injury is a fatal or non-fatal injury incurred as a result of a collision on a public road involving at least one moving vehicle. Children, pedestrians, cyclists and the elderly are among the most vulnerable of road users.

In 2007, over 234 700 people were estimated to have died on roads in the African Region, most of them aged between 5 and 44 years. This constitutes one fifth (20%) of all the road deaths in that year worldwide, yet the Region has only 2% of the world’s vehicles. Pedestrians, users of two- or three-wheelers, and passengers using public transportation were at increased risk of death or severe injuries following road traffic crashes. These deaths and injuries result in family and community devastation, and add to impoverishment in a region already affected by other serious health challenges and entrenched poverty.

Etienne Krug, Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) dealing with Road Traffic Injury (RTI) says that in 2004, the NINTH out of 10 commonest causes of death in the world was RTI. The first was Ischaemic Heart Disease. In 2030, Ischaemic Heart Disease will remain the commonest cause of death, but RTI will be FIFTH, with HIV & AIDS tenth! The WHO decided to do something about preventing such horrible loss of life.

On 11 May 2011, the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched in more than 100 countries, with one goal: to prevent five million road traffic deaths globally by 2020. Moving from the Global Plan for the Decade to national action, many countries have taken measures towards improving road safety, either by developing national plans for the Decade (e.g. Australia, Mexico, the Philippines); introducing new laws (e.g. Chile, China, France, Honduras); or increasing enforcement of existing legislation (e.g. Brazil, Cambodia, the Russian Federation), among other concrete actions. South Africa is not mentioned; Egypt is.

The categories or "pillars" of activities are: building road safety management capacity; improving the safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks; further developing the safety of vehicles; enhancing the behaviour of road users; and improving post-crash care.

In South Africa the Minister of Transport, Mr Ben Martins and acting CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation RTMC Mr Collins Letsoalo, do not seem to focus on a strategy to reduce the annual numbers of both deaths and serious injuries on South African roads drastically. The RTMC was established in terms of Section 3 of the Road Traffic Management Corporation Act, No. 20 of 1999.  They say, “We have a mandate to establish and run an effective road management system to ensure the safety and quality of life of our citizens and we are taking this responsibility very seriously. This has to be a shared responsibility between government, business, community groups and individuals.”

Before the next period of exacerbated carnage on the roads at Easter tide, a Presidential Judicial Commission of Enquiry should be established. It should bring the RTMC together with Concerned organisations including Section 27, Automobile Association, Motor Bike and Cycling Organisations,Road Running Teams, the South African Medical Association, Engineers and any others to design a response to Road Traffic Injury which will show seriousness about stemming the carnage soonest – at least before 2030!

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