Still on the Road Safety Trust Fund

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ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

I have never been to India although I have heard a lot about India and been under the tutelage of Indian experts like Professor Dinesh Mohan who was my instructor during a one week first aid and rescue course I attended in Cape Town, South Africa some years ago. Professor Dinesh left a positive impression on all the participants who attended the training programmes including my humble self. But one thing I have found out is that despite feats in several areas of technology and medicine including eradicating polio and eliminating life threatening diseases, Indian crash record is frightening; India is also struggling   to protect children from preventable road deaths.  Indian roads are also said to be dangerous especially for children as more children die on Indian roads than from crimes.

According to data from  the National Crime Records Bureau records for instance , 15633 children were killed in crashes in 2015; more than 400 children were killed in school bus related incidents. Thousands more were killed and injured in car, motorbike and pedestrian accidents. The record translates to about 43 deaths every day involving children who are mostly below the age of 18years-amounting to 10.5 percent of all fatalities. India’s road traffic crash records like I wrote are frightening. The crash data across India in 2015 shows that nearly 7 times more deaths are caused due to road accidents than crimes against children like murder . This figure is no doubt worrying and explains why reforms are on to structure safety measures like car seats, seat belts and helmets are made mandatory for children .Generally, children India are not safely transported.

 This underscores the need for stricter penalties for traffic infractions involving children. The stricter penalties is also covers  regulations on schools bus ,and other vehicles such as vans and other vehicles used in conveying children to school in addition to  accountability for drivers and conductors.

One of the reasons why Indian lags behind is better explained by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO, India does not meet the WHO standards on child safety as the relevant laws does not provide for the  use of  a child seat  which decreases the risk of death in a crash by about 70% for infants and up to 80% for small children. This WHO maintains should be made compulsory. WHO observes that children are safer seated when seated in the rear of a vehicle than in the front. This is why WHO    guidelines is for laws restricting children from sitting in the front seat especially when they are between 10 and 12 years) when they are under a specific height -usually between 135–150 cm.

I have deliberately chosen this narrative on India even though we have our specific challenges too as a reminder of the challenges and the need for critical actions that must be taken to address the traffic issues even in the face of the historic launch of the Road Safety Trust Fund. You will recall that last week I reminded you of what the same World Health Organizations (WHO) says about road fatalities in sub-Saharan Africa which it notes  are projected to increase by 112%, from approximately 243,000 in 2015 to 514,000 in 2030. This increase is said to be   a far greater percentage increase than any other region of the world, and is in stark contrast to the projected reduction in fatalities in Europe, Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.

The  Reports shows that road fatalities per capita are projected to increase by 51% over the period 2015-2030, at the same time fatalities per capita is projected to decline for both HIV/AIDS (-18%) and malaria (-24%). Road fatalities it further notes are projected to overtake the number of malaria fatalities in the Africa during this period. To cause a shift from this global tragedy, WHO recommends   a system based intervention which gives priority to institutional management and capacity issues. 

According to WHO, “a key factor in tackling the growing road traffic injury burden is the creation of institutional capacity across a range of interlinking sectors, backed by both strong political commitment and adequate and sustainable resources”

 The Road Safety Trust Fund like I told you aims at supporting projects and research in making the roads safer, support the implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action and the road safety related sustainable development goals.

 The Fund is therefore aimed at bridging the gap on the existing resources and help mobilize additional and adequate resources to fund local, national and global events. It would serve as a vehicle to leverage additional funding. It is estimated that every $100 million contributed to the fund would support:  $3.4 billion of Country and City road safety investment, the saving of 64,000 lives and prevent 640,000 serious injuries. It envisages that with $770 million of grant funding yearly over the next decade, it could save 5 million lives and avert 50 million serious injuries in low and middle income Countries such as Nigeria. As a middle income Country whose road traffic crash trend requires adequate funding and sustained research, Nigeria like most others in the continent looks forward to benefitting from this facility. However, like WHO notes, “a key factor in tackling the growing road traffic injury burden is the creation of institutional capacity across a range of interlinking sectors, backed by both strong political commitment and adequate and sustainable resources”.We therefore need to collectively step up actions on our own reforms with the necessary support for concrete results.