Road crashes are a global concern, killing more than a million people each year and injuring thousands every day. More than a half of road deaths are among vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.[i] These figures suggest that, in many countries, road safety laws and enforcement need to be strengthened.
Road injury needs to be considered alongside heart disease, cancer and stroke as a preventable public health problem that responds well to targeted interventions.
Road safety in Uganda has deteriorated rapidly over the last few years, for reasons including a growing vehicle population, the lack of appropriate road safety standards and intervention, and weak enforcement.[ii] The main casualties of this are the pedestrians, who account for 40% of deaths on Uganda’s roads,[iii] followed by riders of motorised two- or three-wheelers (33% of road deaths) and motor vehicle occupants (22% of road deaths).
Road crashes are often covered in the media simply as events – not as a leading killer of people and an enormous drain on a country’s human, health and financial resources. By framing road safety as a health and development story, with data and in-depth information, journalists have the opportunity to affect the way these stories are told and potentially to help shift public behavior and attitudes, influence policy and therefore contribute towards saving lives.
We believe the way road crashes are thought about needs to change because road deaths and serious injuries are largely preventable. Road injury needs to be considered alongside heart disease, cancer and stroke as a preventable public health problem that responds well to targeted interventions.
The causation of road crashes, and the injuries that result, are largely based on four factors – human, vehicles, road and environment – which can be prevented or controlled by identifying the risk factors and applying the following five road safety principles (also known as the 5Es):
- Engineering (making roads and vehicles safer for people)
- Environmental modifications (reducing risk by improving road design)
- Enforcement (legal and police measures)
- Education and empowerment (human behaviours/attitudinal change)
- Evaluation (determining if intervention, policies and programmes work).
As an NGO, Legacy Road Safety Initiative champions driver training and education and we believe that competent, safe driving does not merely require knowledge of road signs or mastering vehicles controls. In fact, drivers must go through a profound learning process in order to acquire the skills to drive safely, and to understand why it is absolutely necessary to behave in certain ways.
We are calling for a deliberate, paradigm shift from the old thinking to a new ‘Thinking to drive’ concept. This should be based on three main pillars:
- strengthening drivers’ ability to understand and analyse traffic situations, and make decisions that minimise the chances of any possible risky situation occurring;
- focusing all policies and programmes around people, particularly vulnerable road users; and
- supporting the provision of generic tools for sustainable mobility, not only from a car, motorcycle or driver perspective.
In addition to these three pillars, we must consider drivers’ emotional intelligence, motivation, and experience, and encourage the development of a systematic approach to safety. This new thinking places people, and in particular vulnerable road users, at the core of the road mobility system. When people are put first, ethical dimensions (i.e. right of safety, safety first, safety for all), economic dimensions (i.e. cost of crashes and value of prevention), and social dimensions (i.e. risk inequality) all come into play.