Road crashes are not accidentsThey can be prevented by treating and addressing the underlying causes in advance.
In general, the word 'accident' is used to refer to road crashes everywhere, which is not correct. Experts believe that road crashes are predictable and preventable. There are specific causes behind every road crash, and they can be prevented by treating and addressing those causes in advance. Road crashes are neither ‘an event that happens by chance’ nor are they ‘an act of God’. The word 'accident' is used as some sort of excuse by road safety managers and the authorities. For this reason, the authorities are not giving the required attention and taking action with a sense of urgency. Therefore, these incidents should be called road crashes or road traffic crashes, not accidents.
For instance, let's consider a crash scene. For a road crash to occur, there must be at least a road, a vehicle and a user (ignoring driverless cars for the time being). So, in case of a road crash, there must be some problem in the man-made system consisting of roads, vehicles and users. And it can be avoided by fixing the underlying problems. If we go a little further, nobody, by nature, wants to die, get injured or kill someone knowingly unless it is a suicide or murder attempt, which is very unlikely in road crashes. Figures show that, every day, around 10 Nepalis are killed on the roads, and dozens of others get injured. And the number of casualties is increasing every day. That means there is something seriously wrong in the system, which has to be improved. Here are some points to make the transport system safe for all kinds of users.
The safe system approach to improving road safety involves a holistic view of the road transport system and the interaction between roads and roadsides, travel speeds, vehicles and road users. This approach aims to develop a road transport system that is better able to accommodate human error and take into consideration the vulnerability of the human body.
Roads and roadsides should be designed, built and maintained to reduce the risk and severity of crashes. Road safety audits should be carried out to check whether a road is safe for all kinds of users or not. Vehicles should be driven at speeds that suit the function and the level of safety of the road to ensure that the force of the crash is kept below the limit that causes death or serious injury. This requires setting appropriate speed limits supplemented by enforcement and education.
Vehicles must be in good condition. The mechanical condition of the vehicle is also a contributing factor in road crashes. Many countries have introduced policies that mandate an annual technical inspection of all vehicles. And this is linked with vehicle registration renewal. A vehicle’s registration is renewed only if it meets the technical and emission requirements.
Road users are either drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. Drivers should be competent to drive the vehicle and compliant with traffic laws. Regulating the issuance of driving licences is also key to reducing road crashes. It is said that road safety starts at driving school. In our context, it is highly recommended to regulate driving schools and manage the licensing of drivers. Strict action must be taken against those who break the rules. In the case of other road users, creating safety awareness is the only way. People normally ignore road safety because the perceived probability of self-risk (dying or getting injured on the road) is comparatively low. Creating awareness targeting the magnitude of such mishaps and the severity of such problems is very important.
Spread the word
To do that, broadcasting regular messages on road safety on the radio and television is very effective, just like the Ministry of Health's messages to take polio drops to prevent polio or oral rehydration solution in case of diarrhoea have been very successful. After all, the common public should understand, and people in authority should realise, that road crashes are also a big public health issue.
The safe system has to be supported by an effective post-crash response that minimises the severity of the outcome from injuries received and facilitates fast and comprehensive rehabilitation. In our context, the traffic police assigned to conduct post-crash rescue are woefully undertrained. It is very important to build the capacity of people assigned for this, as well as to equip them with the required accessories. Ultimately, it is a matter of life and death. The government of Nepal should work towards creating a safe transport system by giving it top priority to ensure that nobody has to die before their time on the roads.