Editor's Comment

Let’s make roads safer

An improved economy means more people being able to buy cars and with this comes an increased risk of road accidents. Indeed the risks are higher but this doesn’t have to translate into more accidents and deaths. With better management of motorists and improvement of the state of roads, the number of accidents can actually reduce. This is what Zambia should strive for. Zambia is a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. By signing up to the SDGs, Government demonstrated its commitment to integrated roadmap for sustainable development. SDGs included a powerful ambition in their 3.6 target: to reduce the number of road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 percent by 2020 by improving road safety. From 2015 to 2020, the country had continued to record a decline in the number of road traffic crashes and deaths. In 2020, Zambia recorded 28,484 road traffic accidents as compared to 30,648 representing a reduction of 7.1 percent. However, the country seems to be reversing the gains made in road safety if statistics released by the Zambia Police Service are anything to go by. While the country has continued to record reduction in crashes and fatalities, the numbers are still unacceptably high and does not come close to the targets for UN global decade of action whose objectives were to reduce road traffic fatalities by 50 percent by 2020. According to Police, over 32,000 road traffic accidents were recorded last year compared to 28, 484 that happened in 2020. The figures show a sharp increase in road traffic accidents by 3,888. In 2020, 1,690 people died out of the 1,404 fatal road traffic accidents recorded while 2,163 individuals died last year in the 1,757 road traffic accidents that happened. For Zambia, the road traffic accidents and fatalities trends from 2012 to 2020, indicates that the number of fatalities per 100,000 populations has shown a steady decline from 17 fatalities per 100,000 population recorded in 2012 to nine fatalities per 100,000 population recorded in 2020. Road Traffic Injuries (RTIs) are the eighth cause of death in the world and an estimated 1.35 million people die every year on the world’s roads. The highest number of deaths occurs on the African continent, i.e. a rate of 26.6 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. A recent study found that the rate could be closer to 65 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Economically, the average annual socio-economic cost of road traffic crashes represents three percent of Gross National Product (GNP) in low-income countries such as Zambia.
Human life is sacred and no one should be allowed to die from road accidents, especially those arising from human error. Zambia will continue to record more road fatalities from human error due to a number of factors arising from drunk driving to unlicenced drivers and a litany of faulty vehicles on the roads. Given that a lot of investment has been made in road infrastructure, it is unacceptable for the country to continue recording a very high number of accidents.Stakeholders in the road sector have a bigger role to ensure that sanity continues to prevail on our roads.
There is need for enhanced collaboration among stakeholders in delivering the mandate of road safety education and advocating for remedial engineering and maintenance on roads. There is need for a proactive rather than a reactive approach on traffic management in cooperation with Zambia Police and all road safety stakeholders including drivers, motor vehicle owners, pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists.

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