By Fredrick Mubanga
Road Traffic Injuries (RTIs) are the eighth cause of death in the world and an estimated 1.35 million people die every year on the on the world’s roads, globally.
The highest number of deaths occurs on the African continent, i.e. a rate of 26.6 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants. A recent study found that the rate could be closer to 65 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants. Economically, the average annual socio-economic cost of road traffic crashes represents 3% of Gross National Product (GNP) in low-income countries.
For Zambia, the road traffic accidents and fatalities trends from 2012 to 2020, indicates that the number of fatalities per 100,000 populations has shown a steady decline from 17 fatalities per 100,000 population recoded in 2012 to 9 fatalities per 100,000 population recoded in 2020. The country has continued to record decline in the number road traffic crashes and deaths from the year 2015 to 2020. In 2020 the country recorded 28,484 road traffic accidents as compared to 30,648 representing a reduction of 7.1 %. Further the number of road traffic deaths reduced from 1,746 in 2019 to 1,690 in 2020 representing a 3.2 % decrease.
The statistics show that progress is being made in the fight against road carnage. There is however still for more consented efforts among stakeholders in the fight if this progress is to be sustained.
For the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, developed by World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, provided an overall framework for road safety activities, who’s aspiration was to reducing road accidents by 50 per cent. Zambia made significant progress in stabilizing the road traffic accident situation in the country. While the country has continued to record reduction in crashes and fatalities, the numbers are still unacceptably high and does not come close to the targets for UN global decade of action whose objectives are to reduce road traffic fatalities by 50% by 2020.
The problem of traffic accidents did not decrease as we expected over the years,” said Claes Tingvall, chairman of the target development expert team at the conference held last year in Sweden on World Road Safety UN Targets. It appears as an important point.”
Last year in February, over 100 United Nations member countries including Zambia attended the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road in Stockholm, Sweden to discuss the global road safety agenda leading up to 2030. The overall goal is to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents by 50% over the next ten years, and calls to reach this goal by 2030. Transport and Communications Minister Hon. Mutotwe Kafwaya represented Zambia at the Road Safety Conference.
Going forward, the shift is towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In order to keep up the activities of this ten year period of road safety, sustainable development goals included a powerful ambition in their 3.6 target: to reduce the number of road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020. Furthermore, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3.6 (number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents) and 11.2 (improving road safety) have one of the most “indivisible” interactions among all the SDGs according to a recent report of experts.
To reach this 3.6 target, and looking beyond interventions on infrastructures, the effectiveness of which is understood, interventions must be conducted in the fields of awareness-raising, provision of rescue services and also public policies and regulations which contribute to the reduction in accidents and their impact on health.
Interventions in Zambia are concerned with road improvement, speed control, legislation and an increase in traffic law enforcement. More attention should be paid to the needs of the pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motorcyclists who make the majority of the road traffic fatalities in Zambia
In order to achieve more with less, the Agency intends to adopt SMART Enforcement and leverage on technology to increase its coverage throughout the country. Collaboration with stakeholders is also key in delivering the mandate of road safety education and advocating for remedial engineering and maintenance on roads. A proactive rather than a reactive approach will be spearheaded on Traffic Management in collaboration with Zambia Police and all road safety stakeholders including drivers, motor vehicle owners, pedestrians’ cyclist and motor cyclist.
The author is Head – Public Relations
Road Transport and Safety Agency