Road accidents kill productive citizens more than HIV/AIDS

> Lahja Nashuuta

Since it reared its ugly head over three decades ago, HIV and AIDS has robbed nations like Namibia of their most productive citizens.

Thousands of our people who died due to HIV and AIDS had many more years ahead to contribute to the economic development of the country. But lately, road accidents have emerged as the biggest health challenge facing our country.

The Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund recently said that Namibia can no longer afford to lose its productive citizens to road accidents, an issue that is preventable. According to the MVA statistics for the month of August 2015, young people constitute be the majority of victims of road crash fatalities and injuries, which puts a strain on the national economy.

The records collected from the  MVA Call Centre indicate that 56 percent of 46 recorded fatalities recorded last month, were young people up to the age of 35 years.

Commenting on the records, MVA’s Chief of Corporate Affairs Kapena Tjombonde noted that most victims were young people in the prime of their lives and poised to become leaders and economic drivers of the country,

“Needless to say, if left unhindered, the spiralling road deaths and injuries will be a significant barrier to the development of the country.

“Thus, the MVA Fund makes a plea to the Namibian nation to adjust their road use patterns to preserve lives and productivity of the Namibian people. Let us be vigilant at all times, wear seatbelts and drive within specified speed limits,” he advised.

Globally, 1.3 million people are killed annually and up to 50 million people are injured annually due to road traffic accidents while 90 percent of the world’s entire road fatalities take place in low and middle income countries. However, the low and middle income countries do not even have half of the world’s vehicles, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Even though Africa accounts for just 2 percent of registered vehicles, the continent is responsible for about 16 percent of annual global road deaths. Africa makes up 12 percent of the world’s population. And records by the WHO, Namibia ranked first in the world in terms of the number of road deaths per 100 000 residents.

A study that was conducted by experts at University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute indicated that in Namibia residents are 53 percent more likely to die in a vehicle collision than from cancer.

In the study titled: “Mortality from Road Crashes in 193 Countries: A Comparison with Other Leading Causes of Death Most”, authors  attributed road fatalities in Africa and other developing countries to poor road infrastructure and weak preventative measures but on Namibia, which has an excellent road infrastructure, they blamed the high rate of fatal road accidents on bad drivers’ attitude.

The above statistics are a signal that if countries aren’t paying attention, by 2030, road accidents will be the 5th leading cause of death worldwide, killing more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria as the WHO once estimated.

Therefore there is a need for all stakeholders to come up with campaigns that will sensitise drivers to exercise patience and observe and adhere to the rules of the road at all times. Additionally, drivers should be encouraged to observe speed limits and also adjust their speed according to road and weather conditions.

Apart from that, companies should also consider signing up to the Work Place Road Safety Policy aimed at instilling a road safety culture on both the drivers and operators and commit themselves to improve road safety in our country.

September 2015
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