“Decade of results”, anyone?

Remember the Decade of Action for Road Safety? The UN resolution proclaiming 2011 to 2020 as the Decade of Action was co-sponsored by more than 90 countries – and South Africa was one of its most enthusiastic supporters

Launched with aplomb on May 11, 2011, the initiative aims to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries worldwide. Our Minister of Transport hailed the Decade of Action as just that: a time for action. I admit I was sucked in by the hype that went with the launches (most countries had one launch; we had many).

Finally, something was going to happen to reduce the carnage on our roads.

We’re one year into the decade, and things have changed. They got worse. We’ve seen a serious tragedy nearly every month in the past year. Crashes killing half a dozen or more people at a time. Each shown on television. Each leading to more promises of action. So much for action. I got to thinking about what didn’t happen last year. How do we get the action bit to happen?

Based on the five pillars of the Decade of Action, a simple, easily-implementable strategy was put forward. We got it. What we didn’t get right was the implementation bit. A strategy without implementation is a document! Law enforcement was beefed up a bit and told to focus more on public transport. Which it did, and the stats do show an increase in unroadworthy vehicles being removed from the road.

But the deaths have continued. And the promises keep coming. More enforcement, although we’re told to look beyond enforcement because the silver bullet just doesn’t exist.

Interestingly, no-one in government, with the exception of the Western Cape, thought about just talking to the public. Communicating. I saw one TV insert hosted by the Minister which was flighted late during the December holidays – and that was it. Not enough. Not even close.

The five pillars of the UN plan are simple:
*Road safety management – in effect, the Department of Transport and its agencies;
*Safer roads and mobility – engineering (design and maintenance), education and training, and safe public transport options;
* Safer vehicles – using standards like the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), and technology such as ABS;
* Safer road users – encouraging better road-user behaviour; and
* Post-crash response  –  providing appropriate emergency treatment and longer-term rehabilitation for crash victims.

It’s not rocket science, yet we still can’t get it right. What then, should we be doing?

It’s simple. Action starts with – action. Check your vehicle. If anything is broken, worn or past its sell-by date, fix it or replace it. If you can’t fix something, adapt the way you drive to reduce the risk. You’re never going to stop idiots from driving the way they do. Prove you’re the better driver by letting them go – you don’t want them near you when things go wrong anyway!

Wear your seatbelt. Make sure your children do too. Change the voicemail on your cell – “Can’t take your call right now, I’m driving.”

The thing about action is that it’s contagious. If people know you don’t take calls while driving, they’ll be more relaxed about doing the same thing themselves. Encouragement by example can be a lot more powerful than enforcement by the authorities.


SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. He’s been with the AA since 2000 and is currently its head of public affairs. All comments published here reflect his own opinion, and not that of the AA. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit www.focusontransport.co.za.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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