Ahmed Raad Al-Shams
The deaths and injuries as a result of road accidents became a global phenomenon. In 2002, Health Organization has estimated that almost 1.2 million people died in road crashes worldwide and as many as 50 million were injured. Unless action is taken, global road deaths are forecast to double by 2020 and yet many of these deaths and injuries are known to be preventable.
More than 85% of road traffic deaths and injuries occur in low income and middle income countries, and cause a huge economic costs estimated between $64.5 billion - $100 billion. Despite the rapidly increasing of road traffic deaths and injuries in low and middle income countries, road safety has been almost ignored as an issue of sustainable development.
2- Background of road accidents
Road crashes causing death, injury, and damage have always happened, at least since animals were domesticated. History tells of people who were the victim of such incidents. Louis IV of France died in 954 after falling from his horse, as did at least two kings of England: William I (William the Conqueror) in 1087 and William III in 1702. Handel was seriously injured in a carriage crash in 1752.
The British road engineer J. J. Leeming, compared the statistics for fatality rates in Great Britain, for transport-related incidents both before and after the introduction of the motor vehicle, for journeys, including those by water, which would now be undertaken by motor vehicle. For the period 1863–1870 there were: 470 fatalities per million of population (76 on railways, 143 on roads, 251 on water); for the period 1891–1900 the corresponding figures were: 348 (63, 107, 178); for the period 1931–1938: 403 (22, 311, 70) and for the year 1963: 325 (10, 278, 37). Leeming concluded that the data showed that "travel accidents may even have been more frequent a century ago than they are now, at least for men.
3- The reasons of road accidents
Road toll figures in developed nations show that car collision fatalities have declined since 1980. Japan is an extreme example, with road deaths decreasing to 5,115 in 2008, which is 25% of the 1970 rate per capita and 17% of the 1970 rate per vehicle distance travelled. In 2008, for the first time, more pedestrians than vehicle occupants were killed in Japan by cars. Besides improving general road conditions like lighting and separated walkways, Japan has been installing intelligent transportation system technology such as stalled-car monitors to avoid crashes. In the United States, 28 states had reductions in the number of automobile accident fatalities between 2005 and 2006. 55% of vehicle occupants 16 years or older in 2006 were not using seat belts when they crashed.
However, in developing nations, statistics may be grossly inaccurate or hard to get. Some nations have not significantly reduced the total death rate, which stands at 12,000 in Thailand in 2007 for example. The reasons of road accidents can be divided to three categories:-
3-1 Driver behavior: - Most of road accidents is a result of vehicle’s driver error, or driver’s behavior. The main reasons of road accidents by drivers are :-
3-1-1 Speed: -The problem of speeding is the most common and the most severe road safety problem. Both crash frequency and crash severity increase as driving speed increases. The potential for crash and injury reduction is substantial. The probability of a pedestrian fatality at an impact speed of 50 km/h is about 85 per cent, while at an impact speed of 30 km/h is less than 10 per cent (Anderson et al., 1997). A model proposed by Finch et al. (1994) indicates that for every 1 km/h increase in the mean traffic speed, crashes rise by about 3%.
The essence of the problem of speeding is that the individual speeding driver rarely experiences a negative outcome of speeding, and as a result, many drivers have difficulty in accepting that speeding can be dangerous. Speeding behavior is sustained as the negative consequences, such as the perceived crash risk, feelings of insecurity, or perceived risk of apprehension fail to outweigh the positive experiences associated with speeding.
3-1-2 Fatigue: - Some investigators conclude that around 10% of road crashes may be attributable to falling asleep at the wheel, and that fatigue contributes to an even larger proportion of single vehicle and commercial vehicle crashes. Implementation of improved crash reporting systems is needed so that better data are available for judicial purposes and for research into crashes in which fatigue may be involved
Driver fatigue arises not only from hours spent at the wheel but also from many other causes such as length and regularity of work and duty spells, available rest and continuous sleep time, and the location of duty, rest, sleep and driving periods within the 24 hour diurnal cycle. There are also individual differences in susceptibility to fatigue under various conditions.
3-1-3 Alcohol: - Alcohol is one of the major contributory factors in crashes and can increase the severity of injury outcome. Alcohol is also a major cause of crashes in the view of road users. Some 85% of European drivers say that alcohol is often, very often or always the cause of crashes (SARTRE, 1994) although there still are large differences between countries. While, for example, 93 per cent of Swedish drivers express this opinion, in western part of Germany (alte Länder) the figure is about 20 percentage points lower (72 per cent).
3-2 Road Design: - A study done in USA, showed that about 34% of serious crashes had contributing factors related to the roadway or its environment. The road or environmental factor was either noted as making a significant contribution to the circumstances of the crash, or did not allow room to recover. In these circumstances it is frequently the driver who is blamed rather than the road.
In the UK, research has shown that investment in a safe road infrastructure program could yield a ⅓ reduction in road deaths saving as much as £6 billion per year. Consortium of 13 major road safety stakeholders have formed the Campaign for Safe Road Design which is calling on the UK Government to make safe road design a national transport priority.
3-3 Vehicle design and maintenance: - A well-designed and well-maintained vehicle, with good brakes, tires and well-adjusted suspension will be more controllable in an emergency and thus be better equipped to avoid collisions. Some mandatory vehicle inspection schemes include tests for some aspects of road worthiness, such as the UK's MOT test or German TÜV conformance inspection.
The design of vehicles has also evolved to improve protection after collision, both for vehicle occupants and for those outside of the vehicle, such as: air bags, anti-lock brakes, impact-absorbing side-panels, front and rear head restraints, run-flat tires, smooth and deformable front-ends, impact-absorbing bumpers, and retractable headlamps. Design has also been influenced by government legislation, such as the Euro NCAP impact test.
4- Economic Costs of Road Accidents
Information was obtained from 21 studies world-wide which had attempted to measure the cost of road accidents. (One in: Latin America, seven studies in Asia, four in Africa, one in the Middle East and eight in developed countries). An analysis of these studies showed that the road accidents cost a percentage of GNP in a ranged from 0.3% in Vietnam and 0.5% in Nepal and Bangladesh to almost 5% in USA, Malawi and Kwa Zulu, Natal. It should be noted that in this analysis the costs determined by the different countries have been used directly and not amended in any way.
The following table provides a crude estimate of global and regional costs assuming that the annual cost of road accidents is about 1% in developing countries, 1.5% in transitional countries, and 2% in highly motorized countries.
5- Strategic objectives to reduce road accidents
Research indicates that many current measures have not reached the limit of their cost effective potential for all groups and areas. The Target of this Road Safety Strategy is to be achieved by:
- Continuing existing effective measures.
- Enhancing and /or achieving wider implementation of measures with further potential.
- Introducing new measures.
Through pursuit of the following strategic objectives:
- Improve road user behavior.
- Improve the safety of roads.
- Improve vehicle compatibility and occupant protection.
- Use new technology to reduce human error;
- Improve equity among road users.
- Improve trauma, medical and retrieval services.
- Improve road safety policy and programs through research of safety outcomes.
- Encourage alternatives to motor vehicle use.
5-1 Improve road user behavior: - Education will be more effective in combination with enforcement which provides incentives for appropriate behavior. Public information campaigns can refresh the education message and reinforce the benefit of enforcement. Information and education also maintain public support for enforcement action. Young road users need to be educated in road safety in order to develop the knowledge and attitudes that lead to responsible behavior on the road. This process includes parents, school-based programs and novice driver training. This will lead to better attitudes and knowledge among road users, including greater:
- Ability to perceive hazards.
- Awareness of safe and responsible practices.
- Sensitivity to all road user groups; and
- Knowledge of, and compliance with, road rules.
On the other hand, police officers have a key role in encouraging improved road-user behavior. Police performance will continue to be enhanced through the development and application of improved management methods and new technology. This will involve greater use of both widespread and targeted intelligence-based enforcement campaigns (more often coordinated with public information programs), effective cross-border operations (especially in relation to interstate heavy-vehicle operators) and enhanced activities in rural areas.
5-2 Improve the safety of roads: - Improving the safety of roads is the single most significant achievable factor in reducing road trauma. Further investment in safer roads is highly justified on both social and economic grounds. Road investment improves road safety through general road improvements — typically, ‘new’ roads are safer than ‘old’ roads — as well as through treatment of black spots. Investment in roads will be maintained by all three spheres of government and will be better targeted to road safety by:
- Improving the estimation of the cost of crashes used in the economic evaluation of road improvement options.
- Widespread use of road safety audits in assuring safety outcomes from road improvement projects and in designing and planning proposed major developments.
- Conducting safety investigations on the existing road network, taking into account the needs of all road user groups, giving priority to sites with a crash history and identifying significant remedial opportunities.
- Improving road design and traffic engineering measures to create a safer environment for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
5-3 Improve vehicle compatibility and occupant protection: - Vehicle safety standards and vehicle design will be improved to further increase the protection provided to occupants and minimize the hazard to non-occupants struck by a vehicle. This will include designing vehicles so that they cause less damage to other vehicles and road users in a crash.
5-4 Use new technology to reduce human error: - Emerging technology will be used to improve road safety. Technology capable of enforcing compliance with road regulations and good practices is being developed. This technology, commonly known as Intelligent Transport Systems, will typically involve engineering systems built into the vehicle and/or the road that intervene when users suffer lapses of concentration or make unsafe decisions. It has the potential to:
- Ensure that restraints are used.
- Maintain safe following distances between vehicles.
- Prevent speed limits being exceeded.
- Control cornering response to maintain adherence with lane markings and stability on wet surfaces.
- Ensure that the driver’s license conditions are adhered to.
- Monitor driver alertness (preventing driving while fatigued or intoxicated).
- Require the driver to perform a breath test before starting a car (e.g. alcohol interlock).
- Detect the occurrence of a serious crash and automatically notify emergency services of the location and severity of the crash and the number of occupants involved.
5-5 Improve equity among road users: - Not all road users enjoy the same level of safety. There are particular issues of concern for:
- Indigenous people.
- Older people.
- Inhabitants of rural and remote areas.
- Some occupants in crashes between vehicles of different mass and features.
- People with disabilities.
5-6 Improve trauma, medical and retrieval services: - The physiological consequences for victims of road crashes need to be reduced through more rapid notification of crashes and provision of primary treatment, and through more effective medical and rehabilitation services. All health care providers will therefore be encouraged to further improve their casualty treatment operations and distribution of trauma treatment centers to reduce the disabling consequences of trauma and to conserve life.
Coordination among all services, medical and non-medical, is essential to ensure that there is effective linkage between acute medical care, family support and ongoing rehabilitation and return to community life. Attention will be given to investigating, with relevant parties, improvement to all components of trauma management systems including better transport and communications, better systems and better training. For example:
- Provision of in-vehicle emergency alert systems that automatically notify emergency services of the location and severity of a crash.
- Common procedures for treatment to streamline the transfer of patients from rural to major hospitals.
- Better availability and training of doctors, paramedics and other emergency service personnel in early management of severe trauma.
- Training of the general public in first aid.
5-7 improve road safety programs and policy through research of safety outcomes: - Evidence from road safety outcomes must be collected and analyzed so that more effective road safety programs and policies can be developed. Since the easier gains in road safety tend to be made first, future gains may become increasingly hard, and require a more informed approach. Research will provide the foundation for a new generation of road safety measures and will ensure that the road safety effort is not misdirected into ineffectual strategies. Through comprehensive, well-resourced research a more thorough understanding will bevavailable of:
- The causes of road crashes.
- The consequences of road crashes.
- The effect of existing counter measures in reducing the number and severity of road crashes.
- The likely effect of potential counter measures in reducing the number and severity of road crashes.
5-8 Encourage alternatives to motor vehicle use: - Reducing the need for motor vehicle use can reduce exposure to road trauma, as well as achieving environmental and other benefits. This will be helped by:
- Land-use planning that reduces the amount of transport necessary for people and goods.
- Transport planning that integrates transport systems and improves the quality and effectiveness of transport.
- Expansion of telecommuting and other measures that avoid the need to travel.
- Promoting the benefits of public transport, walking and cycling.
6- Organizational relationships and accountability
This Strategy provides a framework for coordinating the road safety initiatives of influencing road safety outcomes. Achieving the Target of this Strategy will require the support of:
- The whole community as road users.
- Specific groups of users and the associations that represent them.
- Authorities responsible for providing and managing roads.
- The police and justice sector.
- Vehicle manufacturers.
- Employers of road users.
- Parents and schools who need to keep young people safe and prepare them to be road users.
- Planners and designers who influence transport systems, the road environment and the need for road travel.
- Health care professionals who attend to injured people.
- Governments that allocate funding to road safety programs and health services.
7- Monitoring and reporting
The success of this Strategy will be assessed against the following criteria:
- The trends in fatalities in comparison with the Target.
- The actions taken in response to each Strategic Objective and the outcomes achieved.
- The extent of take up of measures identified in the Action Plans and effectiveness with which these measures have been applied.
- Police enforcement strategies to reduce traffic casualties in Europe/ May 1999 / PDF download from www.etsc.be/oldsite/strategies.
- The National Road safety Strategy 2001-2010/ Australian Transport council/ PDF download from www.atcouncil.gov.au/documents/atcnrss.aspx
- A review of global road accidents facilities/ PDF download from
- Road accidents analysis by microcomputer/ Transportation, Water and urban development department/ the World Bank/ July 199/ PDF download from http://siteresources.worldbank.org
- Make road safety/ a new priority for sustainable development/ Global road safety/ PDF download from www.unece.org/trans/roadsafe/docs/CGRS_Report