July 13, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Due to increasing rate of road traffic crashes around the world, which have been the cause of death of about 1.3 million people every year, the United Nations took a decision to ameliorate the problem.
The decision by the United Nations was the declaration of a decade of action on road safety across the world, beginning 2011, to end in 2020. In this declaration, all countries through their transport ministries and agencies are mandated to make significant inputs in order to put an end to the menace.
According to statistics, road traffic injuries threaten to hinder achievements in economic and human development. It has been estimated that global losses, due to road traffic injuries, total US$518 billion and cost governments between one and three per cent of their gross national product. In some low and middle income countries, the loss is more than the total amount of development assistance they receive. Road traffic injuries place a heavy burden on a country’s economy as a result of their direct impact on healthcare and rehabilitation services, as well as through indirect costs. They also put considerable financial stress on affected families, who often must absorb medical and rehabilitation costs, funeral costs and such other costs as lost earnings of victims, in addition to extensive emotional strain.
In a recent interview with the Planning Manager of the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), James Steven, at his SLRSA office, he said annual road traffic data kept by SLRSA reveal that some 169 persons were killed in road traffic crashes, while 180 were seriously injured in 2015.
He said the Western Area recorded the highest figures – 45 persons were killed and 65 injured. Bonthe and Pujehun districts recorded two deaths each in road traffic crashes, with Kailahun being the only district that did not record a single accident case in 2015.
“SLRSA gets this data of road traffic crashes from various sources, which include Traffic Wardens, the Mortuary, etc. From our observation, there are frequent road traffic crashes because of the absence of street lights along the different highways in the country. There are some breakdown vehicles on our highways that do not have reflectors, but if there are street lights, the incoming vehicle driver will see the breakdown vehicle and drive with caution,” he said.
He disclosed that there are multiplying effects on families of victims of road traffic crashes, the institutions where they worked, plus socio-economic impact on the country’s economy. He added that it also leads to social problems in homes as that is why they have been advising drivers to abide by all road traffic rules and regulations as well as not to forget to use road signs properly.
He revealed that they have designed a new accident template as they are eager to know the new causes of frequent road accidents so as to put measures in place to address them. He however noted that there has been significant reduction in road traffic crashes compared to statistics of previous years.
Public Relations Officer of SLRSA, Abdul Karim Dumbuya, said frantic efforts have been made since the beginning of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety by SLRSA to reduce or eradicate road traffic crashes.
“We have launched the National Road Safety Policy and the Road Safety Strategy as well. We have established road safety clubs in both primary and secondary schools, including colleges in Sierra Leone. We have engaged Members of Parliament, public and civil servants, Motor Drivers Union, Sierra Leone Commercial Motor Bike Riders Union, the Police, among other stakeholders,” he disclosed. He added that these moves by the SLRSA are meant to eradicate or reduce road traffic crashes in order to meet the target year (2020) of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.
He said Executive Director of SLRSA, Dr. Sarah Bendu, has been having sleepless nights over accidents and abandoned vehicles on the highway, adding they have procured tow trucks and developed a drivers’ way game, all in an effort to reduce road accidents.
“Through the efforts of Dr. Sarah Bendu, we have had the name of the now defunct traffic wardens changed to Road Safety Corps as part of the rebranding process. Road safety messages have been taken to every district and chiefdom of this country and we hope to achieve it soon,” he said.
SLRSA Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Bendu, said her institution would now have to collect statistics on road traffic accident victims within 30 days, adding that such would enable the institution know whether victims of road accidents survive, die or totally deformed.
“All what we have been doing in Sierra Leone is to collect data on the scene of the accident. We have not been following up on what happens in the hospital after the accidents and that is very bad on our part,” she said. She added the omission was the reason why they have been getting conflicting statistics on annual accidents.
The SLRSA Director disclosed that on yearly basis, the road traffic statistics provided by the Police differs from that available to the SLRSA because one institution takes statistics on the scene of the incident while the other does not.
“We need to build crash management system that will enable the Police and SLRSA to have one statistics,” she noted.