Road accidents are a significant problem facing the world for decades, and their consequences are heart-wrenching. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, even though road accidents have affected numerous people worldwide, the survival chances are higher in high-income countries than in low and middle-income countries. That is a good reason for concern.
The WHO 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety noted that the proportion of patients who die before reaching a hospital in emerging countries is over twice that in high-income countries. That is the sad reality of road accidents – the level of development and the nature of the leadership may play a significant role in the effects of an accident. In a country where poor leadership is the order of the day, other social ills such as mismanagement, shortages of funds, inadequate health equipment, and healthcare shortage become norms. Imagine a situation where one had an accident and ended up in a hospital without essential equipment after waiting for an ambulance, which never showed up? Such a scenario could lead to death. Yes, preventable death, perhaps.
The Global health organization discovered that almost 1.35 million people succumb to road accidents each year worldwide, and approximately 50 million others suffer injuries, with many cases resulting in disability. The organization also noted that death rates from road mishaps are higher in Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, than anywhere else, even though the continent accounts for only 6 per cent of the world’s vehicles. Traffic crashes are the eighth significant causes of death in the continent and cause death among children and young adults between 5 and 29. More males under the age of 25 are more likely to be involved in road crashes than their female counterparts, the WHO report said.
Sadly, traffic tragedy does not affect lives alone. Traffic crash causes an economic burden to a nation, individual, and the family of the victim. The WHO said traffic accident costs many countries 3 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product. Affected families spend much money on medical treatment, and when disability becomes an issue, it affects the country’s productivity and family earning. These losses occur when the affected person takes time off work or family members take care of the injured.
Experts attribute significant causes of road accidents to unnecessary speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances. Other causes include distracted driving like using a cell phone while driving, unsafe vehicles, unsafe road infrastructures, overloading, inadequate law enforcement of traffic rules, and failure to use helmets, seatbelts, and child restraints.
Law and order
Numerous research works have shown that less-developed countries are more unlikely to pay attention to road safety precautions. From inadequate law enforcement to corruption of government officials, road tragedy has continued to take its toll on developing countries. In one way or another, the result points to the same direction: poor leadership.
Technology and Preventive measures
Attempts to lower traffic-related deaths on our road are now bearing fruits, especially in the developed countries, thanks to the advancement in technology and strict preventive measures. Research shows that human error has caused 95 per cent of all road crashes; many developed countries are applying technological assistance to minimize road accidents. For instance, the introduction of Advanced Driver Assistance System technology has seen a 19 per cent reduction in vehicle damage frequency and 27 per cent in passenger injury, as stated by LexisNexis research published in June 2020.
The European Parliament in April 2019 unanimously assented rules to pave the way for the introduction of several advanced safety features for vehicles to avert recurring accidents. Some of the features approved are intelligent speed assistance, event data recorder, reversing detection, emergency stop signal, advanced driver distraction warning, driver drowsiness and attention warning, and alcohol interlock installation facilitation.
Passengers’ cars, lorries, buses, and light commercial vehicles were required to install an emergency braking system and emergency lane-keeping systems. Moreover, tracks and buses must install direct vision technology, making road users like pedestrians and cyclists visible. Most of these systems took effect for new models in May 2020, and the existing models are supposed to implement them by May 2024.
As impressive as these measures might sound, the question is: how far can these measures be effectively implemented in developing countries? One needs efficient leadership to implement them.
Apart from European Parliament, several countries heavily invest in technology to ensure vehicle and roadway safety and enhance emergency response. Some of the technologies include collision avoidance systems that alert the driver about a nearby car or any other hazards to make the appropriate decision. Next is lane departure warning systems that recognize lane markings and notify the driver when the vehicle starts to shift from its lane. A drowsy driver warning system detects any sign of fatigue from the driver using video technology and issue warnings for the right action. The majority of these vehicle safety systems use radar, cameras, and sonar to provide alerts.
When it comes to roadway safety systems, many things come to mind. There is an intersection collision avoidance system that uses roadside signals to alert vehicles that dangerous cars are approaching. A dynamic curve warning system notes the car’s speed heading to a curve and indicates the rate at which the driver can securely negotiate a curve. Furthermore, a wildlife detection system that notifies the driver when animals are approaching the roadway to slow down. Furthermore, road weather sensors provide instant information about the conditions of the roads, whether they have ice, water, or when it is raining ahead.
To ensure victims receive appropriate care immediately after an accident occurs, technologies such as automatic crash notification systems detect a crash and alert about the vehicle’s whereabouts. There also exists emergency vehicle pre-emption tech that transmits real-time notifications to emergency vehicles located at traffic lights to quickly respond to accidents and real-time data sharing that uses sensors and cameras to share information between police, traffic managers, and emergency responders.
The US Department of Transportation and transport stakeholders have invested billions of dollars in a technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other and with other road users to prevent accidents from happening. V2X is deemed effective and efficient by researchers. It eases communication between vehicles, road users such as pedestrians and motorists, and roadside infrastructure.
Even Non-governmental Organizations have equally speed up plans to minimize road accidents by working tirelessly to ensure road safety and protect innocent lives. Handicap Internation (HI) is one of the NGOs in this field. The HI collects road accident data, offers free training to police and others, offers first aid to victims, and creates awareness. Presently, the HI is working in countries like Kenya, DRC, Benin, Cambodia, amongst others. It is high time we made road safety a priority in Africa and beyond to avoid preventable deaths.