This week starting May 6th to 12th may is the UN road safety week, and Uganda will be joining the rest of the world in marking the event, under the theme “Pedestrian Safety” as part of the Decade of action for road safety leading to 2020.
A pedestrian is a person who travels by foot, and this could be anyone of us. The term pedestrian applies not just to the poor, but also to those who own and drive vehicles because at some point in time, they are bound to abandon the vehicle and make use of their feet to access markets, shops or any hard to reach area. Being a pedestrian applies to all categories of age and social standing, right from the 6 yr old walking to school, the adolescents and youth, and the elderly taking a stroll on the street.
According to the World Organisation Global status report on road safety 2013; worldwide, 27% of all road traffic deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists. In low and middle-income countries, this figure is closer to a third of all road deaths, with less than 35% of low- and middle-income countries having the necessary policies in place to protect these road users. 38 percent of all African road traffic deaths occur among pedestrians. For Uganda, pedestrians were the largest class killed in road traffic crashes, accounting for 39.2% of all casualties in 2011. At 27%, they also form the largest category of injuries sustained during road traffic accidents.
Pedestrians are most at risk the rapid motorization of Uganda has resulted into an increase in motor traffic with vehicles and motorcycles flooding the streets. This is made worse by the fact that our roads are not being expanded to meet increased usage, and even new roads and streets are still built narrow. In addition, the road designs do not make consideration for pedestrians and cyclists and therefore pedestrian lanes are largely inexistent. In urban areas, the lanes are abused; turned into taxi and commuter-motorcycle stages, and used to display trade items by street and market vendors. This has resulted in the pedestrians fighting to share space with vehicular traffic, hence the high numbers of pedestrians killed and injured on the road.
With pedestrians making up almost half of those killed on the roads, this warrants them more attention in road safety programs. As a nation, our road safety laws need to be made more comprehensive, enforcement needs to be strengthened and data systems linked to policy and program action. The government urgently needs to pass comprehensive legislation that meets best practice on all key risk factors to promote and ensure pedestrian safety, such as policies to promote walking and cycling, and protecting vulnerable road users by physically separating them from high-speed road users, roads with lanes, safe routes and crossings for pedestrians, driver discipline, and speed limits in areas with high pedestrian safety. There should also be sufficient investment of financial and human resources in the enforcement of these laws, through increasing traffic police presence on the roads, and equipping the police to increase their efficiency and capacity in ensuring road safety. We also need to raise public awareness and understanding of the legislative and enforcement measures as a means of increasing participation, ownership of pedestrian safety mechanisms
Lastly, a concerted effort is needed to make road infrastructure safer for pedestrians. Pedestrian needs must be taken into consideration earlier, when road safety policy, transport planning and land use decisions are made. In particular, governments need to consider how non-motorized forms of transport can be integrated into more sustainable and safer transport systems.
While we have taken some steps to improve road safety, significantly more action is needed to make our roads safer for the all pedestrians because all road traffic deaths and injuries are preventable and avoidable.