Tuesday, April 24, 2007

UN to promote international road safety

Originally published in Friends of Guinea's blog; reprinted with permission

As many... will remember, [Peace Corps] Guinea volunteers Jesse Thyne and Justin Bhansali were killed in a car accident near Pita, in central Guinea, back in 2000.

In response, many volunteers organized a memorial walk in their honor to bring attention to the issue of road safety. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in developing countries, with Africa the most affected.

According to a UN report, the economic costs of such deaths in Africa is $6.2 billion... which is equivalent to the combined gross domestic products of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and the Gambia.

The UN has recognized how serious an issue road safety is by creating an independent Commission for Global Road Safety. One of the commission's members, ex-Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, notes in this opinion piece that 1.2 million people are killed each year in road accidents, 200,000 of whom in Africa. The scourge is the leading killer globally of people 10-25 years old

Schumacher points out a recently issued UN report that recommends action to cut injuries in developing countries, including a $300m 10-year programme to develop road safety skills, a 10% minimum spend on safety in aid-funded road projects, and a UN ministerial conference.

Prompted by the Make Poverty History campaign, the G8 leaders of the major industrialised countries have committed themselves to doubling aid and improving Africa's road infrastructure. Fewer than 20% of roads in sub-Saharan Africa are paved, and the Commission for Africa recommended that at least 90,000 miles of new roads are needed. But roads built to transport goods as fast as possible, designed to the cheapest specification without safety in mind, will make the world's most dangerous road network worse. The roads built to make poverty history must be safe.

It recommended roundabouts be built whenever possible, since they are reportedly 70 times safer than intersections.


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