by: Deeba Shahnaz Akhtar
Every year, World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is commemorated on third Sunday in the month of November for acknowledgement for the victims of road crashes and their families, advocating for road safety and paying tribute to the dedicated emergency crews, rescuers, police and medical professionals who deal with the traumatic aftermath of road crashes.
The objectives of WDoR 2020 are same with addition to advocate for better support for road traffic victims and victim families, promote evidence based actions to prevent and eventually stop further road traffic deaths and injuries. This is 25th anniversary of start of observing the WDoR, it also attracts attention towards 17 Sustainable Development Goals in which one of the main indicator of health, SDG 3.6 is related to decrease the number of deaths due to the road traffic accidents.
The cumulative toll of road traffic injured and causalities is truly terrific. Each year, approximately 1.3 million people die world over and over 54% of deaths are associated with motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians. It is also an interesting fact that Low Income Countries have 1% of the world’s vehicle but 13% of all deaths. On the contrary, high income countries have 40% of the world’s vehicles but 7% of all deaths. Worldover, every 24 seconds someone dies on the road as per World Health Organization.
In Pakistan, WHO in collaboration with concerned organisations organised Road Safety Workshop at Governor House to review the contributing factors of road traffic crashes, and come up with a way forward in accordance with United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and WHO pillars which includes road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users and post-crash response to reduce the increasing burden of disease due to road traffic crashes in Pakistan.
It was highlighted that an accident is occurring every 1.6 minutes and Rescue 1122 is managing an average 970 road traffic crashes daily in Punjab. As per the objective of WDoR 2020, evidence based recommended priority steps to improve road safety in Punjab are to reduce the maximum speed limit of motorcycle to 50 km/hr, dedicated motorcycle lane, standardise user friendly helmet & ensure enforcement, provision of safe economical, dignified light public transport and implementation of standardised driver licensing programme. According to statistics, Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 responded to over 2.6 million road traffic crashes in Punjab since inception in 2004 and emergency data revealed that 83% RTCs are associated with motorbikes. An average 970 families got traumatised daily when their solely responsible person of the house gets injured or died in the road crashes. Road deaths and injuries are sudden, violent, and traumatic and have long-lasting impact on families. The grief and distress experienced by the road crashes may not be measured in digits. Furthermore, death rate in road crashes can increase due to unavailability of emergency services with trained staff as swift and professional response minimises further injuries and death.
The residents of Punjab are lucky to have a comprehensive and integrated model of emergency service, Rescue 1122 through which government of Punjab is providing every resident right to emergency care at his or her door steps on a single emergency call at Emergency Number 1122. After establishment of a comprehensive emergency response system in Pakistan, the victims of road crashes are receiving professional emergency response and care with an average response time of 7 to 10 minutes by Rescue 1122. Besides that the management of the Rescue Service is committed to reduce road crashes through evidence based research and advocacy to concern stakeholders. Besides, community is being provided awareness and training through community safety programme of Rescue 1122 to provide emergency response, timely first aid intervention and prevent such emergencies.
We all must realise that one of the key factors for road crashes is road user behaviour and many road crashes are occurring due to irresponsible behaviour. The violation of traffic rules, over speeding, impaired driving, no use of helmet and seat belt, no use of side mirrors, and use of cell phone/texting during road use are actually our irresponsible behaviour. Many incidents can be prevented with little vigilance while using roads and collective efforts by the road users, government and concerned emergency response organizations can create the difference to road crashes.
The civilised nations are recognised by organised traffic and I feel, road safety is a culture which can be established through concrete steps and organised efforts which includes an effective licensing programme in all provinces, curriculum development and grade wise graded education related to road safety and safety, clear road safety policy for pedestrian and non-motorised vehicles, strict enforcement and continuous awareness with strict enforcement. Besides that, everyone should be road wise, abide by traffic rules, discourage underage driving, wear helmets, fasten seat belts, not use mobile during driving, maintain vehicle and keep a safe distance from next vehicle because it’s better to be late than never. We as responsible citizens must do commitment that we will play positive role and behave responsibly to ensure road safety for developing safer communities in Pakistan.
Originally published in Daily Nation