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Dealing with road deaths: global safety projects that are saving lives

Dealing with road deaths: global safety projects that are saving lives

To mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims we highlight schemes making a big impact. Share your stories

A bicycle on the red Lira road through Katine, Uganda

A bicycle on the red Lira road through Katine, Uganda. More than 90% of global road deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries. Photograph: Dan Chung/The Guardian

While London has recently suffered a spate of cyclist road deaths, every year, 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes around the world. This is as many as the number of people who die from malaria – and countless more are crippled by life-altering injuries. More than 90% of road deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where road safety laws are struggling to keep pace with rising car ownership.

To mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on Sunday, we're highlighting a handful of projects around the world that are working to save lives from being lost on the roads. Some of the approaches may seem simple – and their impacts may be difficult to measure – but projects such as these could help chip away at the grim global statistics on road safety.

Drink-driving campaigners in Cambodia turn to TV

In Cambodia, the number of cars on the road has increased by 140% over the past five years, and the fatality rate has doubled (pdf) over the same period. Roughly 14% of all those deaths are caused by drink-driving, and young adults are the most affected. Two-thirds of those killed in alcohol-related accidents are between the ages of 15 and 34.

To try to bring down those figures, the World Health Organisation and the Cambodian government have jointly launched a social marketing campaign that consists of adverts for television and radio, as well as billboards that have been posted around Cambodian cities. The adverts ran on primetime TV and radio for three weeks in late October and early November, during the country's Water festival holiday, which is notorious for road crashes.

Now you see me: In Tanzania, schoolkids get high-viz backpacks

Tanzanian child wearing high-viz backpack A Tanzanian school pupil wears his high-viz backpack as he crosses a road. Photograph: Edward Echwalu

 

You don't have to be in a car or on the back of a motorbike to die in a car crash. Pedestrians are incredibly vulnerable road users, with around 270,000 killed in car crashes every year. The problem is especially acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where pedestrians account for 38% of all road traffic deaths, compared to 22% worldwide.

In Tanzania, a group called Amend is distributing brightly coloured schoolbags, which have been enhanced with reflector strips; the organisation hopes to keep children safe by making them more visible on the streets as they walk to school. So far, about 50,000 bags have been distributed, according to Jeffrey Witte, Amend's executive director. Many of the bags have been given away through development projects, but they are also sold by retailers around the country. It's hard to measure the impact, but so far the response has been positive. "[Schoolchildren] need a schoolbag anyway, so it might as well be one that keeps them safe," says Witte. "A lot of these kids don't have bags at all."

Cycle lanes in Istanbul

Turkish cyclists The Embarq project helps promote safe cycling in Turkey. Photograph: October 29th cyclists'

 

Cyclists, who make up 5% of all road traffic deaths worldwide, are another group of vulnerable road users, but cycling is also key to keeping car traffic down in cities.

In Turkey, a project called Embarq, which is managed by the World Resources Institute, is helping the government promote safe cycling in five cities across the country, with a focus on Istanbul, a booming city of 14 million. The project aims to help the government set up a bike-sharing system and build more than 1,000km of safe cycle lanes in time for the country's 100th anniversary in 2023.

The first stretch of 10km, which will wind along Istanbul's coastline, is due to be completed by the end of next year. "We would like to develop a cycling culture in Istanbul," says Arzu Tekir, the director of Embarq's programme in Turkey, adding that car ownership in the city has risen dramatically in the past few years. "Cycling is the easiest way to commute and it's environmentally friendly," she adds. "But the most crucial thing is to make sure that it's safe."

In Vietnam, kids get helmets too

Vietnamese children wear motorcycle helmets Helmets for Kids initiative, launched in 2000, has developed its own 'tropical helmet' for Vietnamese children. Photograph: AIP foundation

 

In 2007, the Vietnamese government passed a law making it illegal for anyone over the age of six to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. One year later, road deaths had dropped by 12% and traffic-related injuries were down 24%, saving the country an estimated $271m in 2008 alone. But one group is still being overlooked: children, who still aren't wearing helmets as much as they should. A recent survey found that only about one in three Vietnamese children wear a helmet when travelling to and from school. The Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation wants to change that figure. The organisation's Helmets for Kids initiative, launched in 2000, has developed its own "tropical helmet", which is specially suited to the country's hot and humid weather.

Helmets are donated to schools, and teachers and students are educated about the importance of wearing them every day. So far, the results have been good: Some 230,000 students have received the training, and helmet use at the programme's target schools has topped 90%.

Free online course

The International Injury Research Unit (IIRU) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in the US, has developed a course that's aimed at improving road safety in low- and middle-income countries. In seven modules, the course teaches participants how to set up road safety surveillance systems, evaluate road safety interventions,and assess the health and economic costs of road crashes, among other skills.

Since the course was launched online in April, 400 people from more than 70 countries have enrolled, including administrators, managers, researchers and healthcare professionals. About three dozen have completed the certificate so far. "We did find that there was a demand [for the course] and we thought it was important to do," says Dr Abdulgafoor Bachani, an associate director at IIRU.

Yoga and detox for bus drivers in India

MDG: An Hindu holy man performs yoga A Hindu holy man performs yoga. The spiritual discipline is being used as part of a rehab scheme in India. Photograph: Anupam Nath

 

Keeping drivers healthy is another crucial part of the road safety equation. To that end, the managers of Karnataka State Road Transportation Corporation in south-west India have developed a 40-day rehabilitation programme to keep the company's bus drivers and mechanics sober when on duty. The drivers are put through a strict regime that includes yoga sessions, counselling, medical lectures and, of course, a complete ban on alcohol.

Road safety is a serious problem in India, where 100,000 people die on the roads every year. And alcohol is a big part of the problem. Police say that they don't have the funding to regularly test drivers' alcohol levels, and liquor shops are common along the highways. The World Health Organisation has given the country's enforcement of drink-driving laws a score of just three out of 10 (pdf).

Join the conversation

What other examples of road safety projects are worth highlighting? Does road safety get as much attention as it deserves in the development community? We'd also like to hear what you plan to do to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

Add your thoughts in the comment thread below. You can also contribute on Twitter @GdnDevelopment or using the hashtag #roadsafety. As always, if you have any problems posting a comment, or would prefer to comment anonymously, email us at development@theguardian.com and we'll add your views to the thread.a 

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Date: 11/21/2013 2:54:25 PM

By: YASA WEB , وكالات
 
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