Working in transport for development, our focus is often on the physical infrastructure that is needed to improve mobility and provide access to services and markets. Road safety is an issue that obliges us to focus on our clients: the young and vulnerable users of road networks around the world.
I just got back from a trip to my home country, Ghana, where road safety is a hot topic as a newly constructed urban highway in the capital, Accra, has got off to a bad start.
The mix of traffic in the streets of Accra, coupled with the lack of pedestrian walkways and mediocre enforcement, has led to a very dangerous situation for the most vulnerable road users – pedestrians, many of whom are children. The lack of facilities for crossing the road forces pedestrians to cross anywhere that they see a gap in traffic. And the footbridges provided did not take into account the needs of the disabled.
Combine this with undisciplined drivers who drive at speeds way in excess of the limit and you have a recipe for disaster. Between February 15 and March 6 of this year, 34 crashes and 13 deaths were recorded, a disheartening number by any account. A post-construction audit is being undertaken and remedial actions will be taken.
This is just one example from one country. Taking a more global perspective, you can see that road safety is an urgent development and public health concern. A total of 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads each year and 90 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Many more people suffer injury or permanent disability, limiting their productive years and quality of life.
The UN Decade of Action on Road Safety, launched last year, recognized the urgency of this issue and provided all the partners involved with a goal: to save 5 million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries by helping countries around the world implement national road safety plans.
The global road safety community will be gathering in Washington, DC next week to discuss progress on the UN Decade of Action and determine our priorities going forward. These discussions, hosted by the World Bank, will involve not only governments and multilateral agencies, but also private foundations and civil society organizations (CSOs).
On April 18, the Global Road Safety Facility will be hosting a meeting jointly with Safe Kids Worldwide to discuss how CSOs can get more involved in supporting the Decade of Action through action and advocacy in their countries.
This meeting will be webcast live on our website: http://www.worldbank.org/grsf. We’ll also be reporting on the outcomes on this blog, and we welcome your comments and suggestions on what you think the priorities should be going forward.
Tawia Addo-Ashong has been the program coordinator for the Road Safety Facility since 2010. She is an engineer, orginally from Ghana, who has worked in the Africa and South Asia Regions on road and transport projects.