Road Safety Week: African countries move towards reducing deaths


Serious accident statistics provided the impetus for action, including two bus crashes in Senegal that claimed 62 lives in January. In nearby Côte d’Ivoire the daily number of fatal road accidents has increased from just 12 in 2012 to 46.

The region of the world most affected by road accidents, sub-Saharan Africa has a fatality rate of 27 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is more than three times Europe’s average of nine and well above the global average of 18, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNEC), which administers the organisation’s 59 legal instruments on inland transport, including united nations road safety convention,

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year 1.3 million people around the world die due to road accidents and millions are injured.WHO) Said.

a quarter of the world’s deaths

The UN Secretary-General said that in Africa, traffic deaths account for almost a quarter of global victims, even though the continent accounts for barely 2 percent of the world’s vehicle fleet. special envoy for road safetyJean Todt, who has just returned from a trip to the roads and highways of West Africa.

“Africa is particularly affected by the tragedy of road accidents, which are the leading cause of youth mortality,” he said.

partner switching gears

Meeting with officials and civil society in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, Mr Todt said the right investments can save lives.

UNECE said that at the moment, governments, the private sector and civil society are partnering in a new project with the help of the United Nations Road Safety Fund, which ultimately aims to reduce traffic deaths and ensure vehicle safety.

The initiative supports regulating the export and import of used vehicles in Africa, particularly with regard to regulations and technical inspections. One of the goals is to import safe and eco-friendly vehicles into Africa in order to avoid tragic accidents.

The first harmonized approach in Africa to regulate imported used vehicles, the project, when fully implemented, will have a “significant impact” on the environment, health and road safety, the agency said.

African countries commit to strengthening reporting on road crash deaths.

Recent tragedies spark public outcry

In addition to the deadly Senegal incidents in January, the same month, in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, a bus crash killed 14 people and injured 70 others, while a similar collision in August 2022 north of Abidjan killed 25. People died.

The agency said these bus accidents highlighted a lack of technical controls and failure to comply with highway codes, as well as the obsolescence of vehicle fleets in both countries.

curb unsafe vehicles

UNECE said addressing the obsolete vehicle fleet requires special attention in West Africa, with Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire mainly dependent on imports of heavily used vehicles.

In 2016, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the average age of the vehicle fleet in Senegal was 18 years, with 40 percent being over 20 years old (unep, UNECE said Senegal issued a decree in 2001 limiting the lifespan of imported cars to 5 years, which was revised to 8 years in 2012.

‘Vicious circle of poverty’

The agency pointed out that efforts are also being made to protect the most vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists, who are also often the poorest and youngest. In fact, Africa has the highest proportion of deaths involving cyclists and pedestrians, accounting for 44 percent of the total number of road deaths.

Besides being a human tragedy, road accidents trap countries in a vicious cycle of poverty. According to the World Bank, the cost of road accidents represents eight percent of Senegal’s annual GDP and 7.8 percent of Côte d’Ivoire.

A busy road intersection.

A busy road intersection.

Crack down on fake drunk driving licenses

Drunk driving, speeding, drowsiness, carelessness, not using seat belts and helmets and not obeying traffic rules are the main causes of road accidents in Africa, the agency said.

Other contributing factors include old vehicle fleets in public transport, bogus licenses, lack of enforcement of penalties and lack of rigorous technical inspections.

Solutions to be implemented include the need to strengthen health services for accident victims, and adherence to the African Road Safety Charter. united nations basic convention on road safety,

UNECE said that raising awareness also plays an important role.

strong new measures

After a string of tragic accidents in January, Senegal announced tougher measures to make roads safer. This included a National Road Safety Plan, with 22 measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries by at least 50 percent.

Action ranges from strengthening road controls to limiting the movement of public transport vehicles. It also means banning the import of used tyres, providing free technical control in Dakar for transport and goods vehicles, and opening technical control centers across the country.

first traffic police force

In Côte d’Ivoire, new initiatives are strengthening road safety laws and creating a traffic police force. After several fatal accidents in the north of the country, the government decided to enforce helmet wearing for all cyclists in 2021.

The commitments are there, said UNECE, whether in Senegal or Côte d’Ivoire, what’s left is the most difficult part: implementing and measuring progress.

Learn more about what the United Nations is doing about road safety Here,

Overloaded vehicles, like this motorcycle taxi in Benin, are a major cause of road traffic accidents in developing countries.  (file)

World Bank / Stephen Gladiu

Overloaded vehicles, like this motorcycle taxi in Benin, are a major cause of road traffic accidents in developing countries. (file)

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