Editorial comment – Navigating our highways

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Road safety campaigns are not new at all. In fact we talk about road safety so much that it is a wonder we are still having accidents. For as long as we have had roads, we’ve probably had equal attention on road safety.

There has to be a balance somehow. The challenge though is finding that balance, when road users appreciate the need for vigilance and take ownership of safety. Road safety then takes on a very important role in the campaign to maximise awareness and minimise injuries or even death because of accidents.

The World Health Organization points out road traffic crashes result in the deaths of approximately 1.3 million people around the world each year and leave between 20 and 50 million people with non-fatal injuries.

If you check its website, you’ll find that more than half of all road traffic deaths and injuries involve vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and their passengers.

We learn that the young are particularly vulnerable on the world’s roads and road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29. According to the WHO, young males under 25 years are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females, with 73 per cent of all road traffic deaths occurring among young males in that age.

It says developing economies record higher rates of road traffic injuries, with 93 per cent of fatalities coming from low- and middle-income countries.

We are reminded that in addition to the human suffering caused by road traffic injuries, they also incur a heavy economic burden on victims and their families, both through treatment costs for the injured and through loss of productivity of those killed or disabled.

More broadly, road traffic injuries have a serious impact on national economies, costing countries 3 per cent of their annual gross domestic product. It says measures proven to reduce the risk of road traffic injuries and deaths exist and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set ambitious targets for reducing road traffic injuries.

So what can be done to ease this worrying trend? Road traffic injuries can be prevented. To that end though, government will need to address road safety in a holistic manner. This will mean involvement of all stakeholders, and we are talking about the transport sector, the police, the health sector, education and all road users.

Effective interventions, according to the WHO, include designing safer infrastructure and incorporating road safety features into land-use and transport planning, improving the safety features of vehicles, improving post-crash care for victims of road crashes, setting and enforcing laws relating to key risks, and raising public awareness.

Understandably we can say a lot of things, and make suggestions, but it will all come back down to you and I being proactive. Road rules are there for a reason, and we must be catalysts for change.

The Queens Highway was quite busy at the weekend as many people travelled to Lautoka City to watch the Fijian Drua take on the might of the Super Rugby Pacific competition champions the Crusaders at Churchill Park. Drivers were still taking unnecessary risks along the way.

Some drivers were testing the patience of others, and placing lives at risk. While most of us want to have a driving licence, there comes with it a certain level of responsibility. It is this sense of responsibility that we should promote and encourage road users to embrace. Road accidents happen because we allow them.

But wouldn’t it be great to travel on our roads confident of our own safety? That can happen if we are all on the same page, adhering to laws that govern road usage in Fiji.

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