By Deeba Shahnaz Akhter
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030 is even not possible without working on the one of the main indicator of health SDG 3.6 number of deaths due to road traffic accidents. Road Traffic injuries are the leading cause of the death among the young people 15- 29 years and 91% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occurs in low and middle income countries like Pakistan, even though these countries have approximately half of the world’s vehicles. World over, each year approximately 1.25 million people die and over 50 million get disabled due to road traffic accidents. The World report indicates that the number of road crash fatalities will increase worldwide by 60 percent by 2020.
The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims has a history since 1995, when road victim organizations observed a day as European Day of Remembrance under the umbrella of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims. Later From 2000, NGO from Asia, America and Africa, Pope and religious leaders jointly remembered road victims on 3rd Sunday of November and calling it “World Day”. After 10 years on 26th October, 2005 the UN General Assembly adopted World Day as “the appropriate acknowledgement for victims of road traffic crashes and their families”. In this Year 2015 we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of observing the World Day Internationally, whereas 10th anniversary of its adoption by the United Nations. Each year, in the month of November on 3rd Sunday World Day is commemorated across all the continents by the Government, NGOs and all related stakeholders to sensitize the community about road safety by recalling and remembering the millions killed and injured on the world roads. Besides that it is the day to thank Emergency Services which swift and professional response to the road traffic accidents create a big difference in reducing morbidity and mortality. In short the purpose to mark this day is to remember the many millions killed or injured in road crashes and their families and communities, as well as to pay tribute to the dedicated emergency services, police and medical professionals who daily deal with the traumatic aftermath of road death and injury.
According to statistics, in Pakistan, Emergency Service Rescue 1122 Punjab alone has managed over 1179085 road traffic crashes in last 11 years in only one province and road traffic crashes has been found one of the leading cause of injuries and death among young, able breadwinners of the society. Every day in Punjab Rescue 1122 is responding about 700 road traffic accidents which means about 700 families got traumatized when their solely responsible person of the house get injured or died in the road crashes. The grief and distress experienced by the road crashes may not be measured in digits but thanked to the Government of Punjab for having and supporting a comprehensive integrated Emergency Service Rescue1122 in Pakistan which alone have rescued over 3.7 million emergency victims in different emergencies including related road traffic crashes in Punjab.
It is also a hard fact that despite of continuous efforts of Emergency Service Rescue 1122 and concerned organizations like National Highways and Motorways Police, Islamabad Traffic Police, City Traffic Police Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala, Punjab Traffic police towards community education on road safety the number of accidents are not decreasing that shows only education or awareness is not sufficient.
Road Safety needs to have collective efforts of the government and people with education and strict enforcement. People should think that they can prevent injury and death toll by behaving responsibly while using road. There are series of root causes which includes the vehicle fault, road infrastructure and road user behavior but 80 to 90% road crashes are occurring due to road user behavior. Young breadwinners becomes more vulnerable to accidents due to thrilling behavior, violating traffic rules including failure of wear seat belts, failure to wear helmets , driving at excessive or unsuitable speed and driving under the influence of alcohol, ignoring caution signs, adopting antiskid break system in the cars, lack of maintenance of vehicle and falling sleep behind the wheel etc. Such crashes may be avoided by having collective efforts by the Government, Non-Government Organizations, National Society like Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) Academia and Research Institute with international partners’ organizations. The civilized nations are recognized by the organized traffic and I feel, safety in all walk of life is not a rule, it is a culture. Developing a safety culture needs a lot of concrete steps and organized effort to achieve Safer Communities Goal.
It is the need of the hour to realize community through media and awareness session by concerned organizations that an accident is not just a will of God, but mostly takes place due to negligence of the driver or a fault in the vehicle or the road or a road user. The users must know that 80 to 90 percent accidents are occurring because of the behavior of road user. It has also been observed that there is the Motor Vehicle Ordinance for motorized vehicles but there is no effective legislation to cover other road users like slow moving carts and pedestrians. Recently when Government of Sindh announced for strict compliance of having license, the crowd of the public in the traffic office shows how many people were driving there even without license.
The concrete steps towards road safety includes an effective licensing program in all provinces, to include road safety and safety related education in our curriculum to have orientation of our generations at grass root level and clear road safety policy including for Pedestrian and non-motorized vehicles should be implemented with strict enforcement without discrimination.
Rescue 1122 in collaboration with Pakistan Red Crescent, City Traffic Police Rawalpindi, Rescue Scouts and Health and Safety Professionals from EDCONS institute and Fire and Safety Association of Pakistan (FSAP) are commemorating road traffic victims by organizing Seminar, distributing awareness material on road safety, sharing lesson learnt from major crashes. We as responsible society must do commitment on this day that we will play our positive role and behave responsibly while using road for developing Safer Communities in Pakistan.