By Daniel Mwamba Chairman Zambia Road Safety Trust
Road traffic accidents are a high, unacceptable cost to society and public health. Each year at least 1,25 million people perish and around 50 million injured on roads globally. In Zambia at least 120 souls are lost every month, and these accidents having quadrupled to almost 100 % since 2010, is one of the leading causes of deaths besides HIV/AIDS and Malaria, a lead cause of death for children below the age of 16. While we cannot measure the emotional costs of losing a loved one, the economic cost to this country is estimated at approximately 3 % of GDP– around K60 billion over the last decade – more than Zambia’s real annual budget.
The problem of road accidents maybe complicated, widespread, and urgently in need of a solution—but with bold leadership, it is ultimately SOLVABLE. Fatal and long-term injury in road accidents is a largely predictable and avoidable problem, which is amenable to rational analysis and remedy. We need to focus on achieving specific results, applying system-wide, evidence-based measures, underpinned by effective leadership. Without new and effective actions, road deaths in Zambia will rise steeply. This has been emphasized by the UN in its resolution on improving global road safety in which it proclaimed that achieving road safety results requires long-term governmental ownership, leadership and political will.
We have to recognise, that road safety is a shared responsibility at international, national, provincial, and local levels. Achieving good road safety results is a multi-disciplinary activity which takes place in a complex multi-sectoral context. Multi-sectoral activity provides the opportunity for a holistic system-wide approach that provides good and broad opportunities for ‘win-win’ integration with a range of other governmental and organisational policies for example we need to acknowledge that the business sector and employers in general share responsibility for road safety and can make an important contribution to road safety when input in line with national road safety strategy. The business sector can often contribute financial support to road safety activity. In practice, in the past five years, Puma Energy Zambia Plc has been funding road safety education – through chid road safety education for 50,000 children and radio programmes, resulting in 50 % reduction in traffic fatalities among the children between 2014 and 2018. The Puma Energy Foundation, the FIA Foundation, AMEND, Vital Strategies and FED EX have all generously contributed through the Zambia Road Safety Trust in setting up School Zones, with infrastructure to reduce speed around schools here in Zambia, achieving a 100 percent reduction child fatalities in those areas. This shows that, there is an urgent need for meaningful institutional collaboration between Government and key partners in the business sector and civil society if we have to save lives on our roads.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN General Assembly Resolution 44/25 (1989), calls governments to work to provide a safe environment for children. The Tylösand Declaration (2007), states that everyone has the right to use roads and streets without threat to life or health. All road users in Zambia have the right to safe and sustainable mobility.
We welcome bold leadership action by Hon Mutotwe L Kafwaya, MP and Minister for Transport and Communications working with the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) and the Lusaka Mayor, Miles Sampa to reduce limit speeds to 30 km/h in all urban areas and schools. Zones where speeds are set at 30 km/h (or 20 mph) are proven to be effective at reducing accidents and increasing community cohesion.
Road safety is SOLVABLE.