Eswatini Daily News

By Ntombi Mhlongo

With traffic accidents being the leading cause of death among African youth, governments across the continent have resolved to drive in a new unified direction.

This is part of the Road Safety Week which is observed from May 15 to May 21 of every year. The United Nations (UN) has said on its website that increasingly grim accident statistics provided the impetus for action, including two bus crashes in Senegal that claimed 62 lives in January. In nearby Côte d’Ivoire, the daily number of fatal road accidents has risen to 46, from just 12 in 2012.

The UN said that in the world’s region most affected by road crashes, sub-Saharan Africa’s fatality rate is 27 per 100 000 inhabitants. That is three times higher than Europe’s average of nine and well above the global average of 18, according to the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which manages 59 of the organization’s legal instruments on inland transport, including the UN road safety conventions.

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According to the UN, every year, 1.3 million people around the world are killed as a result of road crashes, and millions more are injured. In Africa, the UN said traffic deaths account for about one-quarter of the global number of victims, even though the continent has barely 2 per cent of the world’s vehicle fleet.

“Africa is particularly affected by the tragedy of road accidents, which is the leading cause of youth mortality,” UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, who just returned from a visit to the streets and highways of West Africa was quoted saying.

It was reported that at the moment, governments, the private sector, and civil society, with help from the UN Road Safety Fund, are partnering in a new project that ultimately aims at reducing traffic deaths and ensuring vehicle safety, UNECE said.

The initiative supports regulating the export and import of used vehicles in Africa, particularly regarding regulations and technical inspections.

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“One of the goals is to import safer and environmentally friendly vehicles in Africa to avoid tragic accidents. The first harmonized approach in Africa to regulate imported used vehicles, the project, when fully implemented, will have a significant impact on the environment, health, and road safety,” the UN said.

Apart from the deadly Senegal incidents in January, in the same month, in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, a bus accident killed 14 people and injured 70 others, while a similar collision in August 2022 killed 25 people in the north of Abidjan.

These bus accidents have highlighted the obsolescence of fleets of vehicles in both countries alongside a lack of technical control and a failure to comply with highway codes, the agency said.

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