Road Traffic Accidents: A Growing Public Health Problem in Africa

In Accidents on July 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

Car Accidents 1

For many Africans on the continent, road traffic accidents are a daily reality. Most have lost a loved one or an acquaintance to fatal road crashes. The stories are numerous and disheartening and  here is one of such stories. Please note that the names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

A Personal Story

For Funke Williams, Saturday was just another day at the office. She loved to come there on the weekends to work or study because of the peace and quiet that the office offered during those rest days. After settling into her cubicle, she stepped out for a short while to use the bathroom. On her way back, she received a text message with the words: “Uncle Jim is dead!” Her head began to spin. Her Uncle Jim! Her dear Uncle Jim! That could not be possible. She typed back quickly,”What happened?” “A road accident”, the reply said. As she texted back and forth with the bearer of the news, she was able to get the full details of the tragic incident. A cement laden trailer had burst its tire and rammed into a tanker transporting petroleum which in turn hit the bus Uncle Jim and his wife were travelling in, setting it ablaze and charring its occupants in the process.

Over 80 persons died that day. This catastrophic event happened in Nigeria and you can read more about it here.

Uncle Jim and his wife were breadwinners of both their nuclear and extended families. With their passing, their orphaned children and extended families will face undue economic and psychological hardships and challenges which may have a wide impact on their lives.

 A Glimpse of the Statistics

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3,400 deaths occur worldwide each day from road traffic accidents. With 24.1 deaths per 100,000 populations in 2010, Africa has the highest mortality rate from road traffic accidents. In the Democratic Republic of Congo for instance, road traffic accidents were responsible for an estimated 13,764 deaths in 2010 while in South Africa and Nigeria, estimated road traffic accident mortality for 2010 stood at 15,995 and 53,339 respectively. This is a large number of lives lost from a preventable cause of death. These statistics should prompt governments to embrace and enforce safety measures that will decrease road traffic mortality to a minimum.

Preventing Road Traffic Injuries and Mortality

In its 2004 release titled “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention”, the World Health Organization outlines measures that countries can implement to address the risk factors that influence crash exposure, involvement, severity, and severity of post- crash injuries. Some of these recommendations include: providing safer and shorter routes, graduated driver licensing systems, classifying roads and setting speed limits by their function, creating safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists and setting up cameras at traffic lights. All the recommendations in this report are relevant to reducing accidents in African countries and should be a priority item on national health agendas.

So what do you think? What has been your experience on your country’s roads and what are your suggestions to reduce road traffic accidents?


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