By: Thandiwe Kubere

UNITAR and a number of partners held a road safety workshop, to enlighten Lesotho National Road Safety and Basotho nationals on the developed management practises for safer roads toolkit, an intervention tool developed to enhance safety and help save lives on the roads.

Assuring effective road safety measures comes critical, especially now when the festive season, which is reputable for having more road accidents, is approaching. Coordinated by Maluti Mountain Brewery, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and other stakeholders held an engaging workshop in Maseru, to as well share on how the management practises for safer roads toolkit has benefited countries who took an opportunity to utilize it.

Ministry of Public Works and Transport Deputy Principal Secretary Lesimule Moletsane, declared road crashes have been identified both globally and domestically as a socio-economic challenge. “It is estimated that 1.25 million people globally, die annually due to road crashes and that 50 million people suffer various injuries as a result. This has dire consequences on society as it results in an increased burden on social security and the wellness system of a country.” She noted that of most importance is the loss of lives and the subsequent broken families. “Of all crashes, human factor accounts for a large percentage, confirming that this crashes are both in fact avoidable and preventable. It is our belief that through this initiative, we will be able to chance the behaviour and attitude of road users with regard to alcohol consumption and others. Road safety is indeed everybody’s responsibility and should be observed all year round, not just only during holidays”, she said.

PS Moletsane highlighted that one of the most pressing issues facing modern society globally, particularly in Lesotho is road safety. Road crashes cause most of the world’s fatalities. “Road safety serves as a government effort to ensuring a safer, better, and secure lives for all through the mandate of reducing road crashes and injuries to the public road users. As a participant to the second United Nations Decade Action to promote safety 2021-2030, a guiding framework for action Lesotho has endorsed, the global undertaking to save up to 5 million lives and contribute to the prevention of up to 50 million serious injuries by 2030”.

She declared that in accordance with this commitment, Lesotho National Road Safety plan 2021-2030 has been developed. The following strategies will be used; improved coordination and institutional strength, improve road safety data systems, eliminate fraud and corruption, ensuring adequate funding and capacity, enhance use of technology to promote and protect road users, identify and address high risk locations, provide a safe road environment for all road users, enable regular road safety policy on new and existing infrastructures, increase vehicle safety standards, ensure vehicles on the road network are road worthy, improve road users attitude and behaviour and involve communities on addressing safety measures, improve enforcement effectiveness, increase protection of vulnerable road users, increase efficiency of first responders (such as police or paramedics), and others.

The road traffic-related deaths and injuries have unparalleled health and socio-economic implications on society, as a whole. According to Dr. Mpilo Ngubane, Head, eThekwini Municipal Academy (EMA), a staggering 1.35 million people die on the world’s roads every single year and up to 50 million more are left injured or disabled. Globally, over 500 children under the age of 18 are killed on the road each day. These numbers make road traffic injuries one of the leading causes of death worldwide and that among the most economically active citizens – those between the ages of 15 and 29.

With the aim of contributing to advance road safety, (UNITAR) developed the “Management Practices for Safer Roads Toolkit Learning App” which presents a practical management methodology that can be applied in the field of road safety. This was as well to contribute to advance road safety and to join the global activities taking place during the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

UNITAR’s Road Safety Initiative aims to support governments to help them reach the Global Road Safety Performance Targets and advance towards achieving the Global Goals of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, with the ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.

The Road Safety Initiative includes 3 components: Capacity building, Public awareness, and Partnerships.

Dr. Ngubane declared the Toolkit, which is now available on mobile devices, will greatly benefit the organizations and governments that wish to make a positive impact towards improving road safety. This Toolkit is an interactive e-learning tool that presents a management methodology that can help improve road safety by: Collecting data on the number and location of deaths by road user type; Identifying hazardous and critical road locations and sections where excessive numbers or severity of crashes occur; Outlining corrective measures; and Implementing interventions and monitoring results

The App provides in-hand practical solutions, participatory contributions from different stakeholders including the private sector, and results-based interventions. It highlights projects in which the methodology has been implemented and tested in cities in Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, India, Mexico and South Africa.

It also features a checklist to support users to monitor their progress throughout the different stages of the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” Toolkit’s methodology. With Planning, the problem causing road accidents needs to be identified and the phenomenon analysed as well as putting up a plan. The next step (Do) is to execute the plan. Checking involves assessing every three months whether there is a positive or negative impact and if the plan execution is reaching the purpose it was intended for. While the Act or Action plan has three phases of engineering, educating or creating awareness and law enforcement.

During the workshop, it was identifies that common causes of road accidents, particularly in Lesotho include over speeding. There is often a temptation to push the speed limit when running late. But road users were advised to understand and be aware that the road is a shared resource and many other vehicles are also using it. The increase in speed increases the risk of accident and severity of injury during the accident.

Another one is distraction. Distraction during driving a minor cause, but can result in a fatal accident. The distraction may be outside or inside the vehicle. Due to distraction, motorists tend to lose focus on the road and this division of attention results in a decrease in the reaction time and ability of judgement. Thus the possibility of accident increases. The major reasons for distraction while driving are: talking on mobile phones, looking at the GPS system, talking to passengers, adjusting music controls, adjusting the mirror, handling children, reaching for a thing on the back seat, eating while driving, use of mind-altering substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, prescribed medication (sedative/tranquilizer), daydreaming, looking at the scene outside, or animals on the road, (More, 2021).

Distractions seem to be part of our everyday lives. People frequently drive distracted and escape consequences but in some instances it can result in a fatal accident. It only takes a split second of distraction to create a lifetime of pain and suffering, hence precaution should be taken when driving by keeping the focus on the road, (More, 2021).

Other common causes which need to be avoided include drunken driving, changing lanes rapidly (which is dangerous and is one of the top causes of road accidents), jumping red lights, avoiding safety gears like seat Belts and helmets.

While others, which are not human factors include potholes, diversions, road construction and others.