Commenting on the death of Zenani Mandela, and the deaths of three young British students on South African roads yesterday, the international Make Roads Safe Campaign said:
“These tragedies on South Africa’s roads must focus attention on the global epidemic of road crashes. Many countries, like South Africa, are struggling to deal with rising road injuries caused by poor road infrastructure, untrained drivers and the failure of police to enforce drink driving, seat belt or helmet use. Next year the UN will launch a Decade of Action for Road Safety in an attempt to halt the rising numbers of deaths around the world. More than 90% of those killed are in developing countries. A child in South Africa is twenty times more likely to die on the roads than a child in the EU. We must act urgently to make roads safe”.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his foreword to the 2009 Make Roads Safe ‘Decade of Action’ report, wrote:
“From time to time in human history there comes a killer epidemic that is not recognised for what it is and is not acted against until it is almost too late. HIV/AIDS, which is ravaging Sub Saharan Africa, is one such.
Road traffic injuries have the potential to be another. We ignore road crashes at our peril. This epidemic is invisible through its ubiquity, yet when we stop to add together the daily toll in each neighbourhood or city, each country and region, we can comprehend the true tragedy: 3,500 people killed every day, thousands more seriously injured; 260,000 children killed every year, and more than a million more seriously injured, with barely a voice raised in protest.
This is predominately a killer of the poor. It is the poorest communities which live alongside the fastest roads. It is the poorest children who have to negotiate the most dangerous routes to school. It is the most vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists, who are at greatest risk yet are the most routinely forgotten by the planners and policymakers.
In March 2008 I was pleased to add my name to an Open Letter to the United Nations calling for a first ever Global Ministerial Conference on road safety and was delighted when the UN General Assembly approved the proposal.
Now it is time for those who can make a real difference – the governments, international financial institutions, the donor community, development activists and the millions who are angry but silent – to step up to meet this challenge and to commit to a Decade of Action for Road Safety.”
According to the WHO there are 14,920 reported road traffic fatalities in South Africa each year, around five times that of the UK. There are also 219,978 road traffic injuries annually in South Africa.
The proposal for a UN Decade of Action was first made by the Make Roads Safe campaign. According to the campaign, 5 million lives can be saved and 50 million serious injuries prevented during the UN Decade of Action which will run from 2011-2020.