Dar es Salaam. The number of road fatalities annually has swelled by around 100,000 in just three years, with road accidents now the leading killer of children and young people between the ages of five and 29, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says in a new report.
The latest UN health agency’s Global Status Report on Road Safety was released yesterday, and is based on data from 2016 showing that the situation is worsening.
It noted that road accidents kill someone every 24 seconds, with a total of 1.35 million traffic deaths around the world each year. “These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
In its last report, based on data from 2013, the number of road traffic deaths was estimated at 1.25 million annually.
“There is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions,” said the WHO chief.
But despite the increase in the overall number of deaths, the rate of death compared to the growing number of people and cars in the world has stabilised in recent years.
The death rate in Africa is particularly high: 26.6 annual traffic deaths for every 100,000 citizens, compared with 9.3 in Europe, where the death rate is the lowest.
“This suggests that existing road safety efforts in some middle and high-income countries have mitigated the situation,” WHO said.
This is largely due to better legislation around key risks, including speeding, drinking and driving, and failing to use a seatbelt, child restraints or helmets, the report found.
Safer infrastructure like sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes and better vehicle standards have also paid off.
But while many countries have stepped up efforts to improve the situation, many poorer nations are lagging way behind.
According to Friday’s report, “not a single low income country has demonstrated a reduction in overall deaths”, adding that the risk of a road traffic death remains three times higher there than in high income countries.
Friday’s report also shows a devastating disregard for the most vulnerable in traffic, with more than half of all those killed in road accidents either walking or on two wheels.
Pedestrians and cyclists account for 26 per cent of all traffic deaths, with the figure as high as 44 per cent in Africa.
Motorcyclists and their passengers meanwhile account for 28 per cent of all road deaths, but the figure soars to 43 per cent in Southeast Asia, the report said.
In Tanzania, road accidents are common, often due to speeding, overloading of vehicles, poor road and vehicle conditions, but also lax road safety enforcement by police.
And concerns raised in the latest WHO report over rising numbers of accidents involving two-wheelers are also contained in information released by the Home Affairs ministry recently, which revealed that at least 823 people die every year in motorcycle (boda boda) accidents alone.
In a period of 10 years (2008-2018), a total of 8,237 people have died in motorcycle accidents across the country.
Most of these cases are a result of sheer recklessness on the part of bodaboda riders who habitually break traffic regulations. Apparently, traffic police officers have failed to control the situation.
In Dar es Salaam, boda bodas have earned themselves a reputation of being reckless, rude and arrogant – cases of hit-and-run involving motorcyclists are not uncommon. .
Some companies have tried to help by providing refresher courses on road safety, but it seems that has not helped much, especially in the absence of firmer and consistent action by the authorities against this group of road users.
Traffic Police Commander Fortunatus Muslim is on record saying a new strategy is in the offing targeting reckless drivers.