Annual Road Traffic Death Toll Doubles

  • Ethiopia urged to act swiftly as Annual Road Traffic Death Toll Doubles

ADDIS ABEBA – Appropriate intervention on road safety is urgently needed in Ethiopia, says the United Nations’ report, after annual road traffic death toll in the country doubled.

Between 2007 and 2018, the number of road accident deaths rose from 2,161 to 4,597, a newly published ‘UN Road Safety Performance Review” report finds, citing data the national statistics. The East African country loses 13 people per day, or one person every two hours, due to road traffic crashes.

“Given the magnitude of the road safety challenge, which constitutes a major burden on the social, economic and health sectors, more attention needs to be channeled to appropriate interventions,” says the Review launched on Tuesday.

Unless decisive action is taken now, road crashes in Ethiopia are likely to increase significantly within the next decade, the report warns.

– Passengers are vulnerable –

Authors of the review have looked into all stages of the development and administration of road projects in the country.

Owing to their limited training, the review claims designers, builders and road asset managers have little knowledge of road safety.

Most roads in the country are two-way, two-lane roads with many substandard sections, says the report that finds insufficient or non-existent street lighting as “a major problem for pedestrian safety”.

The absence of traffic signage and road markings are also “a serious concern”, the review says.

According to official figures, 79% of fatal crashes in the country occurred on paved roads and only 19% on gravel and earth roads, whereas paved roads make up only 14% percent of the road network.

Overall, passengers are the most vulnerable road users in Ethiopia, accounting for 52 per cent of road deaths in 2018, according to government’s data. Pedestrians account for the majority of fatalities in urban areas, according to the report.

– Filling Legal Gap –

Used cars constitute over 85% of the vehicle fleet in Ethiopia, many of which are not equipped with basic safety features.

Buses and commercial vehicles or trucks were involved in nearly 65 per cent fatal crashes in the country in 2018.

The report advises authorities to improve legislation and implementation of laws and regulations on vehicle standards and periodic technical inspection, aligned with UN agreements.

Ethiopia has some regulatory basis for governing road safety and the transport sector in general, but which must be strengthened considerably, the report urges.

“With so many lives lost on the roads of Ethiopia, we cannot continue with business as usual,” said Jean Todt, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety.

“I call on the government to ensure the necessary political and financial commitment for safe mobility at the heart of its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis”.

The review too recommends the establishment of an autonomous Road Safety Lead Agency at the national level that reports to a high-level executive body, which must be allocated sufficient financial and human resources.

– Report’s outcome welcomed –

Transport Minister of Ethiopia, Dagmawit Moges, signified her government’s continued commitment to improving road safety saying the country is already implementing several recommendations stated in the review.

According to the minister, a strategy for enhanced financing of road safety is being developed while developing a framework for the National Road Safety Commission, which is envisaged to be operational in 2021.

“The Commission will strengthen the enforcement of existing rules, regulations, and laws and ensure consistency in their application across the country,” said the minister.

Government officials also believe that the recently introduced changes in taxation of imported vehicles could als be key in making the country’s road safe.

As per the new excise tax law, newer vehicles that meet the required UN safer standards fall in lower tax brackets than older ones that do not meet these standards.

Transport Minister Dagmawit also said “road safety sensitization programs are conducted regularly,” including awareness campaigns through mass media, to tackle the increasing road accidents.

The report, launched late Tuesday, is conducted by the UN Economic Commissions for Africa (UNECA) at the request of the Ethiopian government.