Global Road Safety
Around the globe, over 3000 people die every day as a result of road traffic accidents (RTA's). Most of those people are in low and middle income countries, or less economically developed countries (LEDCs. They used to be called third world countries.)
Seatbelts, tyres with tread on them, and drivers passing a test before they go on a road are just three of the road safety features many western countries take for granted, but are rarely enforced or even required in some LEDCs.
Add poor road surfaces, inadequate road signs, few police enforcing the rules and a lot of people who can't afford to maintain their vehicles, and it's not surprising that LEDC accident rates in continents such as Africa are almost 3 times higher than in Europe.
Consider the relative risks allowed in these two extracts from the Highway Code, a book that should be read and memorised by all drivers. The first is from the UK version; the second from the Kenyan version that is used in several African countries.
1. " only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signaling to turn right, and there is room to do so"
2."If you have a good reason to overtake another vehicle, pass it only on its right, this rule for overtaking on the right may be relaxed and one may overtake from the left, for instance ... in a one way street."
It has been said that low levels of driver training are a major factor in the high road deaths in LEDCs.
The Commission on Road Safety has called for G8 countries to treat road accidents as if they were a natural disease, and spend money to reduce the effects. Britain has been asked to give 2 million pounds every year for the next ten years as part of an international campaign to raise 160 millions pounds to reduce the 1.2 million deaths and 50 million casualties resulting from vehicle accidents every year.
So, what's it got to do with us? As citizens we need to be aware that what we do at home, and the decisions we make, can have consequences far away as well as at home. We could spend a lot more money to reduce road deaths around the world, but should we?
Consider the advantages and disadvantages, then decide... What do you think we should do?
You may like to consider these thoughts...
If the UK does provide the money, it will mean using not just the money we already spend of road safety in LEDCs, but quadrupling it. (that's 4 times as much)
2 million pounds a year is nothing to the UK government.
Is it right to spend so much money to reduce deaths in other countries when we still have 11 road accident fatalities for ever 100,000 people in Europe every year?
If we exported our own road safety ideas to other countries it wouldn't stop us from still making improvements at home.
If we did spend the money to improve roads, signs and driver training, would it make any difference when nobody can afford to maintain their vehicles?
In LEDCs having a road accident can lead to poverty because the person can't work anymore. Fewer injured people would mean that more people could earn money and eventually would afford to maintain their vehicles.
Will the extra people who survive each year be able to contribute to their country's economy and help reduce poverty, or will they just be additional mouths to feed and cost more money?
How does this road surface compare to the ones near your home?
How safe do you think this road is for cars and pedestrians?
How many hazards can you see in this photograph that may contribute to an accident?
And how many road hazard can you spot in this image?
Who do you think is most vulnerable in this picture? The car drivers, the motorbike riders or the pedestrians?
What evidence can you find in this photograph to suggest that vehicles and roads aren't well maintained?
To see what it's like to travel along a road in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, click on the image to download a video clip showing a motorbike driving through 'light' traffic in the city. (The file is 31Mb)
To discover more about global road safety, and have access to thousands of online resources and topical lessons to inspire primary and secondary teaching and learning, visit Learnthings, the online educational website from The Guardian.
The Geography-Site is not endorsed by Learnthings or The Guardian, but may be used in association with one of more of their excellent online lessons.