Prof. Moses Amweelo
The speed of motor vehicles is at the core of the road injury problem. Speed influences both crash risk and crash consequences. Excess speed is defined as a vehicle exceeding the relevant speed limit; inappropriate speed refers to a vehicle travelling at a speed unsuitable for the prevailing road and traffic conditions.
While speed limits only declare higher speeds illegal, it remains for each driver and rider to decide the appropriate speed within the limit. Risk factors influencing crash involvement: speed, alcohol or drugs, fatigue, male, vehicle defects, youth driving together and vulnerable roads users. In Namibia, all people injured in motor vehicle crashes, regardless of their contribution to the crash, receive fair and reasonable benefits, subject to some limitations and exclusions.
The majority of deaths that occur are confirmed by paramedics at the scene of the crash (68% in 2018). The country established and cemented collaborative partnerships with various agencies and corporate entities. There is a centralized call centre, which has been in existence since 2012. The centre operates on a 24/7 basis and is manned by qualified paramedics. Over 95% of crashes that occurred within the country are reported through the centre. Furthermore, the country has established four emergency response bases at crash prone zones and an emergency medical care faculty established in collaboration with the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust).
In addition, the country established an occupational and physiotherapy faculty in collaboration with the University of Namibia (Unam). The speed drivers choose to travel at is influenced by many factors such as road and vehicle related, traffic, environment related, and driving related. Modern cars have high rates of acceleration and can easily reach very high speeds in short distances. The physical layout of the road and its surroundings can both encourage and discourage speed. Crash risk increases as speed increases, especially at road junctions and while overtaking as road users underestimate the speed, and overestimate the distance, of an approaching vehicle. While there was an annual increase in deaths until 2017, a significant reduction in deaths from 2017 to 2018 was observed.
This can mostly be ascribed to the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) funded B1 and B2 task force initiative launched in 2018 and jointly executed by various road safety stakeholders. The B1 and B2 task force initiative success story should therefore be replicated in the new decade. Globally, road crash injury is a leading cause of death for young drivers and riders. Both young age and inexperience contribute to the high risk of these drivers and riders.
The parliament in November 2019 approved the ratification of the African Road Safety Charter with the instrument of ratification deposited with the African Union Commission in February 2019 from which date the charter became applicable in Namibia. A new Road Safety Management Bill (RSMB) has been drafted and principally adopted by the National Road Safety Council. The Bill provides for a complete overhaul of how road safety is being managed in the country.
In particular, it gives effect to the African Road Safety Charter, reduces fragmentation, rationalizes and clarifies the role of involved stakeholders and most importantly, it formalises coordination modalities based on the safe system approach advocated by both the African Road Safety Charter and the Namibian Chapter of the Decade of Action 2011-2020, which is coming to an end this year. Besides the repealing of the current nonresponsive National Road Safety Act, the Bill if enacted soon will enable full domestication of the African Road Safety Charter and provide a solid foundation for improved road safety work going forward. Speed has an exponentially detrimental effect on safety. As speeds increase, so do the number and severity of injuries.
In conclusion, I recommend that Namibia should prepare a road safety strategy that is multisectoral – involving agencies concerned with transport, health, education, law enforcement and other relevant sectors – and multidisciplinary – involving road safety scientists, engineers, urban and regional planners health professionals and others. The strategy should take the needs of all road users into account, particularly vulnerable road users, and should be linked to strategies in other sectors. It should involve groups from government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, the mass media and the public.