Road safety in South Africa is a much debated topic. Why are so many lives lost annually when it can, to a large extent, be prevented? According to Arrive Alive’s website, 10 857 people died in traffic accidents in 2009 (the last year for which statistics are given).
Given that SA’s total population in 2009 was 49 320 500 (Stats SA), this means roughly 22 per 100 000 South African citizens died on our roads that year.
Compared to Sweden’s three per 100 000, and it is clear that there is room for improvement. The Swedes achieved this number after introducing Vision Zero in 1997.
This initiative has since been adopted by many cities worldwide and it has also lead to various other initiatives, according to ArchDaily. One such initiative is the American Vision Zero Network, where various stakeholders – traffic engineers, health professionals, local leaders, and policy makers – are brought together to work on the problem of road safety in a more holistic way.
In a recent study, the network looked at three cities – Chicago, New York and San Francisco – where the Vision Zero policy has been implemented to assess the role of public health in making the programme more effective.
The study found that often road accidents – and resulting deaths – were not reported with all the necessary detail. This, and not including all victims in the database, leads to incomplete information when trying to tackle the problem.
Other findings were on the role health workers can play – in conjunction with colleagues in other sectors – in helping to create safe environments, mentally as well as physically.