Gaborone — Road traffic crashes are among the main causes of deaths in Botswana, says the health promotion officer for World Health Organisation (WHO) Botswana, Mr Moagi Gaborone.
Speaking during the launch of the commemoration of the fifth United Nations Global Road safety week in Gaborone on May 7, Mr Gaborone said that meant families continued to lose loved ones as well as productive and skilled human resource.
Mr Gaborone said the social and economic costs to the country were substantial and not sustainable, adding that the biggest burden was perhaps felt in the health system that carried the bulk of the aftermath of road crashes.
Mr Gaborone said according to the latest WHO Global Status report on Road Safety, Botswana has a recorded death rate of 20.1 per 100 000 population against the global death rate of 17.4 per 100 000 population.
He stated that the rate showed that Botswana was performing better in comparison to many African countries, adding that there was no cause for celebration because Africa had the highest death rate at 26.6 per 100 000 population when compared to other regions. He however said Botswana statistics were still a cause for concern despite concerted efforts on the specific actions and priority areas as highlighted in the global and national strategy.
He stated that 2 850 claims were lodged with the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund in 2018 with figures for 2017 and 2016 showing the same trend of 400 deaths per year.
He pointed out that focused interventions had to be sustained to turn the situation around, adding that everyone had to play a role.
The Road safety week commemorations were celebrated under the theme Leadership for Road safety, which Mr Gaborone said called for increased individual and collective involvement, investment and vigilance on road safety.
The theme recognises and recommends that all should be involved to save lives, he added.
Mr Gaborone said the current state of road safety in Botswana was unacceptable as statistical evidence showed that an average of 400 lives were lost annually on the roads.
He highlighted that deaths due to road accidents ranged from 450 in 2016 to 444 in 2017, and 462 in 2018, adding that by end of March this year, 70 lives had already been lost.
He also said the high statistics also indicated that progress towards realising Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target of 3.6 remained far from sufficient.
He said the target called for a 50 per cent reduction in the number of road traffic deaths by 2020, which seemed impractical now, adding that a lot could be done in the remaining months.
In addition, Mr Gaborone called on road users to observe traffic rules such as fastening seat belts and child restraints, not using cellphone while driving, observing speed limits and avoiding drinking while driving.
"The country requires a comprehensive multi-sectorial national road safety action plan with time-bound targets," he said, adding that Botswana was required to accede to at least one of the core road safety-related UN legal instruments.
Meanwhile, Mr Gaborone commended Botswana for several interventions that had been put in place following the country's commitment to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety global plan, which aims at reducing road accidents by 50 per cent by the year 2020.
He said in terms of the legislation, government was in the process of reviewing two statutory instruments namely the Road Traffic Act and Road Permits Act to identify gaps that might be purposely rectified to improve road safety and reduce crashes.
He further said Botswana continued to benchmark globally to adopt best practices to improve road safety.
Furthermore, he spoke of the construction of the Intelligence Driver Testing grounds in Maruapula, which would contribute significantly to the graduation of highly competent drivers.
"Apparently, Botswana is a trailblazer as it is the first country in Africa to have this state of the art facility," he said.
Mr Gaborone urged leaders in various organisations to draw attention to the road safety crisis in the work place, as well as incorporate road safety in the work programmes of health and safety and wellness, further saying that they should ensure that there was a road safety policy for their fleets.
He called on everyone to cultivate a good culture of road safety and responsible driving and called on Batswana to pledge a continued commitment goal of reducing road accidents in Botswana.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>