BUILDING and promoting mass transportation and reducing human error can make roads more safe and prevent the deaths of thousands of Filipinos, according to the United Nations.
In a briefing on Thursday, UN representatives said that they do not have an estimate of how much mass transport can reduce transportation deaths —only that it can, as it reduces the number of people on roads and human error.
Ultimately, according to UN Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt, a former top executive of Ferrari, educating drivers is one way to prevent transportation-related accidents that lead to injuries and deaths.
“Human behavior [is the main cause of most accidents]. The influence of the driver makes [transportation] more dangerous that’s why behavior is essential,” Todt said. “[This also includes] the behavior of the pedestrian. They can [also] provoke an incident with a car. Everybody needs to be respectful [while] on the road.”
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista agreed and said transportation deaths are usually caused by drivers who are drunk, are driving beyond speed limits, and texting while driving.
Based on his discussions with Todt, Bautista said some drivers are complacent that because they live only a few kilometers away from a watering hole, they can drink to their hearts’ content leading to accidents.
“Some countries say their target is to reduce fatalities by 50 percent. I think that’s also a good target for us, although in the first document I got from the road sector, the target is 20 percent. That might be more realistic,” Bautista said, partly in Filipino.
“It’s not a bad thing to have a good target, right? If 50 percent is better than 20 percent. I think 20 percent, I think that was 20 percent, but if we’re talking long term, maybe it’s 50 percent,” he added.
Based on DOTr data, road accidents cause about 11,000 fatalities annually. This number has risen since during the pandemic, transportation-related deaths reached 8,000 to 10,000.
The latest Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed 9,693 deaths caused by transportation accidents between January and November 2022. This made transportation accidents the top 13th cause of death of Filipinos during the period.
This means that there are about 881 transportation-related deaths per month; 29 per day; and at least one death per hour caused by road accidents nationwide.
Todt made a four-day stopover in the Philippines, from April 11 to 14, to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 with the aim of halving the number of victims on the road by 2030.
South-East Asia is one of the regions of the world most affected by road crashes. Fifty-eight percent of the world’s 1.3-million road deaths occur in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the World Health Organization, South-East Asia has the second highest road traffic fatality rate of 20.7 per 100,000 population after Africa, which is 26.6 per 100,000 population.
The Philippines ranks 10th out of 21 ASEAN countries on the list while Singapore, Maldives and Japan are in the top 3. The road traffic fatalities rate in the Philippines is 12.3 per 100,000 population. By comparison, the fatality rate is 9.3 per 100,000 population in Europe. More than 32 people die a day in the Philippines on the roads and hundreds more are severely injured.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain two global targets on road safety. SDG target 3.6 seeks to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes. SDG target 11.2, on a 2030 timeframe, calls for improving road safety in the provision of access to transport systems and expanding public transport to all.
Reporting about his meeting with the families of road traffic victims on Thursday morning, the Special Envoy expressed his concern about the impact of the crashes on the community: “Families of those injured and lost through crashes, have to carry more than a heavy emotional and physical burden, they also have to face an economic one.”
According to the World Bank, the cost of road crashes represents 4.1 percent of GDP in the Philippines. It is also the leading cause of death for ages 5-29, injuring and killing not only the economic force but also the hope of the nation.
“Road fatalities and injuries are a development challenge”, said UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Gustavo González, emphasizing that investing in road safety means investing in health, cleaner planet, social inclusion, human rights, access to education, sustainable transport, resilient cities, gender equity and more. It is therefore crucial to achieve road safety goals.”
Wearing seat belts and reducing speed are also key challenges in the country. Only 52 percent of drivers wear seat belts in the Philippines. Compared to 2013 (79.7 percent), the rate has dramatically dropped by 28 percent.
Speed management was recently addressed in a project in the Philippines funded by the UN Road Safety Fund. The project realized significant impact with more than 170 speed enforcers trained in best-practice speed enforcement, high-level officials supported in developing speed enforcement plans, and more than 75,000 people engaged through social media on the importance of appropriate speeds.
Other solutions are about building an ecosystem of safe vehicles, safe roads, strong laws and effective post-crash care. The Special Envoy also recommends that the country adhere to the international instruments and conventions on road safety to guide national policies. Putting road safety as a priority on the political agenda could also have a transformative impact on saving lives on the road.
In that perspective, the country has taken new initiatives to strengthen safety on the roads. For example, the Philippines issued the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-2028 with the target to decrease by 20 percent, remind of global goal of 50 percent reduction by 2030.
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