UN urges increased attention as road traffic deaths more than double in Ethiopia

Source: Xinhua| 2021-01-14 18:42:22|Editor: huaxia

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Increased intervention on road safety is urgently needed as road traffic deaths in Ethiopia more than doubled annually between 2007 and 2018, rising from 2,161 to 4,597, a newly published United Nations report has urged.

The report "UN Road Safety Performance Review" cited national statistics to show that 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," according to the report released late Tuesday.

Unless decisive action is taken now, road crashes in Ethiopia are likely to increase significantly within the next decade. It is also likely that actual fatality figures in the country are larger than those nationally reported, given that data collection is paper based, leading to significant underreporting and misclassification of road traffic fatalities, said the report.

The concept of road safety is not systematically incorporated in road projects, it noted.

Currently, most roads in the country are two-way, two-lane roads with many substandard sections, including insufficient or non-existent street lighting, which is a major problem for pedestrian safety, it said.

The absence of traffic signage and road markings is also a serious concern, it said, adding that 79 percent of fatal crashes occurred on paved roads and only 19 percent on gravel and earth roads, whereas paved roads make up only 14 percent of the road network.

While passengers are the most vulnerable road users in Ethiopia, accounting for 52 percent of road deaths in 2018, pedestrians account for the majority of fatalities in urban areas, the report said.

Buses and commercial vehicles were involved in nearly 65 percent fatal crashes in the country in 2018. Used cars constitute over 85 percent of the vehicle fleet in Ethiopia, many of which are not equipped with basic safety features, it added.

The report, conducted by the UN Economic Commissions for Africa (UNECA) and for Europe at the request of the Ethiopian government, suggested making it a priority to further ensure safe infrastructure for vulnerable road users.

It also recommended the establishment of an integrated crash database to support evidence-based policy interventions.

Ethiopian Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges said the government has already been implementing several recommendations of the report.

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

Increased spending on the road sector has to be accompanied by appropriate road safety measures, said UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNECA Vera Songwe.

"I commend Ethiopia for being one of the few African countries that dedicate a share of their Road Funds to road safety. This is a step in the right direction, yet there is room for improvement as this currently stands at less than one percent of the fund in the case of Ethiopia," Songwe said.

According to Songwe, the private sector can also play an important role in financing road safety in the country, including investing in vehicle inspection centers and upgrading roads to improve their safety ratings in line with recommended UN voluntary targets. Enditem