News / Africa

Saving Lives, Saving Money

A traffic jam, one of five key issues Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi outlined in his Al Nhada (Renaissance) project, is pictured in old Cairo October 8, 2012, a day after his 100th day in power.
A traffic jam, one of five key issues Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi outlined in his Al Nhada (Renaissance) project, is pictured in old Cairo October 8, 2012, a day after his 100th day in power.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Every year, road crashes kill more than a million people around the world and injure many, many more. But a new study says deaths and injuries can be sharply reduced by taking simple safety measures. What’s more, safer roads can bring major economic benefits as well.


Dr. Margie Peden said that traffic collisions should be viewed as a health issue.

“It’s a huge public health problem. It’s a public health problem
akin to those of malaria, tuberculosis and some other infectious diseases. It kills around 1.3 million people every year and it injures and disables somewhere between 20 and 50 million people,” she said.

Peden is coordinator for Unintentional Injury Prevention at the World Health Organization.

“I liken it to a disease because it’s often not thought of as a public health issue. Very often in countries it’s thought of as a transport issue only. Although some of the issues around prevention may be related to improving vehicles or improving the road, lots of the patients obviously end up in hospitals and they consume huge amounts of resources,” she said.

She was asked to review the study, which appears in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

The study describes safety measures taken between 2000 and 2010 in Catalonia, Spain, the far northeastern region that borders France.

“We were very aware that during these 10 years, from 2000 to 2010, there was an important decrease in the number of traffic crashes and deaths. So we thought, ok, just to make it more impressive and understandable for anybody, let’s translate this figure into economic terms. So people [are] aware of the money that could be saved using public health measures,” said health economist Dr. Anna Garcia-Altes, who’s the lead author.

Dr. Garcia-Altes, who works for the Catalan Agency for Health Information, Assessment and Quality in Barcelona, outlined the economic benefits of road safety in Catalonia.

“First, if people [are] less injured they go less to the hospital, right? So there’s an immediate impact because people don’t use the emergency room, hospital admissions, rehabilitation, long-term care, etcetera.  The second thing is if people [are] not injured they can go to work. And finally we were estimating that in this 10-year period there were 3000 less deaths due to car accidents. So this has also an economic impact,” she said.

The safety measures that were strictly enforced include seatbelt usage, speed limits, drunk driving laws and a penalty point system for repeat offenders that could result in the loss of drivers’ licenses.

Dr. Garcia-Altes said that she’s been contacted by European and U.N. officials, who are interested in the safety program.

WHO’s Dr. Margie Peden described the Spanish study as “an important piece of work, as there are few economic evaluations of road safety policies.”

She said that poor data collection makes it difficult to have an official list of regions where road traffic deaths are the worst. Nevertheless, the information that is available indicates North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the eastern Mediterranean regions fall into that category.

Peden said that there needs to be new thinking about road safety.

“Unfortunately, for many, many years road builders have really only thought about the car occupants and not the person outside the car. And if we look at road users globally we see that nearly 50 percent of them are actually what we call vulnerable road users. These are people that are outside the vehicle, like pedestrians or cyclists or motorcyclists,” she said.

The World Health Organization official would rather not use the word “accident” in safe driving campaigns.

She said, “The term ‘accident’ conjures up in people’s minds that this is an act of God, a fate. Something that is not preventable.”

She prefers the terms “road traffic collisions” or “road traffic crashes.”

Much attention is now being paid to “distracted driving.” One example of this is sending text messages over mobile phones while driving.
 
“If we look at the statistics around the world, there are a few highly sensationalized accounts of deaths related to texting. But when you actually look at the numbers you will find that there are actually very few deaths related specifically to texting, but there’s lots of minor collisions, fender benders, what they call lane deviations or people driving slowly because they’re trying to text while their driving with their knees or something,” she said.

She said that distracted driving is a problem, but recommends dealing with speeding, drinking and driving, not wearing seatbelts or helmets first.

We are currently in the early years of the U.N.-designated Decade of Action for Road Safety. Peden says it has the ambitious goal of trying to reduce by half the number of road traffic crashes. It may be an uphill battle. Road traffic crashes are currently predicted to rise during that time from the ninth to the fifth leading cause of death in the world.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid