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THE World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023 estimated that there were at least 1.19 million road traffic deaths back in 2021, which is a 5-percent drop from the 1.25 million fatalities in 2010.

It said that over half of all United Nations (UN) member-states “reduced road traffic deaths between 2010 and 2021. The slight overall reduction in deaths occurred despite the global motor vehicle fleet more than doubling, road networks significantly expanding, and the global population rising by nearly a billion. This shows that efforts to improve road safety are working but fall far short of what is needed to meet the target of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030 to halve deaths by 2030.”

The report continued by revealing that “road traffic deaths and injuries remain a major global health and development challenge.” As of 2019, the said “road traffic crashes are the leading killer of children and youth aged 5 to 29 years and are the 12th leading cause of death when all ages are considered. Two-thirds of deaths occur among people of working age (18 to 59 years), causing huge health, social and economic harm throughout society.”

In the Philippines, a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report in 2021 showed an increasing trend of road traffic deaths in the past decade—from 7,938 fatalities in 2011 to 11,096 deaths—for a 39-percent increase. The report said that at least 84 percent of road traffic deaths were among males, while road traffic injuries was a major cause of mortality for children, with motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists among those considered vulnerable road users. On an economic scale, it said that road traffic injuries are estimated to cost about 2.6 percent of the country’s GDP.

On the other hand, based on the Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS) report for 2022, a total of 71,891 road crashes occurred in Metro Manila that year for an average of 197 road crashes daily.

Road safety

THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) lists the most common risk factors for road traffic crashes as human errors like speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and psychoactive substances, non-use of safety equipment such as helmet, seat belt, child restraints, and distracted driving. Also, the DOTr noted the lack of safe infrastructure for vulnerable users, vehicle maintenance, and inadequate enforcement cause road traffic crashes in the country.

“The causes of road traffic incidents can be complex and multifaceted. Factors like education, awareness and attitude towards road safety play a vital role. Additionally, infrastructure, law enforcement, and public awareness contribute to the overall scenario,” the DOTr said.

The agency noted that local government units (LGU) also play a crucial role in road safety, particularly in the aspects of awareness and compliance. It said the Land Transportation Office (LTO) deputizes LGU traffic enforcers to implement and enforce traffic regulations at the community level, and that LGUs can assist the national government in conducting education campaigns, improving infrastructure, and coordinating with law enforcement to enhance road safety. “The LGUs’ proximity to the community allows them to address specific local challenges and tailor initiatives to ensure effective awareness and compliance with road safety rules,” the agency emphasized.

The Philippine Road Safety Action Plan

THE DOTr launched last year the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan (PRSAP) 2023-2028, together with partners, such as the Department of Health (DOH) and the WHO Country Office in the Philippines.

During the launch, DOTr Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said the plan, together with the WHO global report on road safety, “will guide us in implementing and monitoring efforts to reduce road traffic deaths and serious injuries in the Philippines.”

In answer to emailed questions from the BusinessMirror, the DOTr said the PRSAP 2023-2028 is a comprehensive document that serves as a roadmap for road safety in the country, and focuses on the existing road safety situation, vision, updated targets, and strategies to continue promoting road safety from 2023 to 2028.

“The PRSAP 2023-2028 re-affirms the vision and objectives of the original PRSAP, with updated interim targets and activities for road safety for the next six years,” the DOTr said.

The PRSAP 2023-2028 works on a multitude of pillars, each one comes with its own set of objectives that must be met. Among these is Road Safety Management, whose objectives is to institutionalize a strong and sustainably funded lead agency, with the DOTr assuming that role, and will prioritize road safety in government planning systems. It will also help establish quality road safety data for evidence, engage non-government organizations (NGOs) and the civil society on road safety, enhance research capacity on road safety, promote multi-modal public transportation, livable land use planning, and comfortable sharing of public space, and adhere to international conventions and adopt relevant global best practices.

The other pillars under PRSAP 2023-2028 include Safer Roads: this seeks to promote road safety ownership and accountability among road authorities, and the development of safe road infrastructure for all road users. The Safer Vehicles pillar, meanwhile, will pursue to improve, expand and encourage mandatory use of the motor vehicle inspection system (MVIS), and likewise adopt and implement global guidelines and standards to increase safety in motor vehicles. It will also strive to ensure the roadworthiness of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and private motor vehicles and promote safe transport using alternative sources of fuel to be able to comply with the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (EVIDA).

There is also the pillar on Safer Road Users, which will strive to increase public awareness and support for road safety, strengthen enforcement of and public compliance to road safety laws, and ensure safe operations of public and private transport vehicles. Finally, there is also the Post-Crash Response pillar, whose objective is to improve post-crash care.

Different from previous PRSAP

WHEN it conducted a rapid assessment of the implementation of PRSAP 2017-2022 in order to guide the development of the next phase of the PRSAP, the DOTr said there were many notable road safety projects, activities and services that were implemented by the agency and its road safety partners in the last six years.

However, there were significant challenges, such as lack of funding for organizations and deemed low prioritization for road safety. “The Covid-19 pandemic also disrupted the implementation of many of the activities and projects.”

The agency said that PRSAP 2023-2028 is eyeing to take off from the current plan’s achievements and continue existing initiatives and address the challenges and limitations from the previous PRSAP 2017-2022. It is guided by the vision of a Philippine society with zero deaths on the road and a target of at least 35 percent reduction in road traffic deaths by 2028, and it builds upon the safe system approach and is guided by the Global Plan of the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety. “The plan recognizes that road safety is a collaborative endeavor, and harnesses whole-of-government and whole-of-society collaboration to reduce road traffic deaths,” the DOTr said.

Nevertheless, the DOTr noted that the new PRSAP 2023-2028 is aligned with the priorities of the administration, specifically the Philippine Development Plan.

Are the goals realizable?

THE DOTr said road safety is a shared responsibility, and various government agencies and NGOs must work together to ensure the objectives of PRSAP 2023-2028 are attained.

The agency is also looking at including the academe and other local and international organizations since they play a “pivotal” role to make the goals of the PRSAP 2023-2028 realizable. “Aside from being advocates of road safety, the PRSAP 2023-2028 was formulated with the help of experts, guided by data and studies, laying the foundation and strategies toward safer goals.”

“Road crash incidents continue to be a global concern, claiming countless lives each year and leaving families affected by the loss of loved ones. Achieving the target of 35-percent reduction in road traffic deaths requires a multifaceted approach, incorporating stringent policy implementation, enforcement, infrastructure improvement, public awareness campaigns, and multi-stakeholder and multi-agency collaboration,” the DOTr added.

Turnaround

DESPITE this seemingly grim scenario, government agencies tasked to help improve the status of road safety and developing awareness about it among motorists and the general public in the Philippines are fast-tracking their efforts to make a huge turnaround.

On the part of the DOH, Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said road safety is one of the current priorities of the DOH. “Dahil sa Bagong Pilipinas, Bawat Buhay Mahalaga, no one should die or be seriously injured on our roads. Every life is precious. Multisectoral action to prevent deadly trauma brought about by road traffic crashes is needed, as part of the Action Agenda sa pag-iwas sa sakit.”

For the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), part of their Performance Governance System (PGS) Strategic Plan 2023-2028 is to “establish improved road network quality and safety, and ensure that newly completed road projects meet the International Roughness Index (IRI) standard, critical intersections along national roads are provided with engineering solutions and that the national road network meet the three-star rating standard, or better, for road safety performance.”

In its plan, the DPWH said that by prioritizing the construction and maintenance of quality infrastructure with smooth roads, governments and communities can improve road safety, enhance driving experiences, and promote sustainable economic growth.

Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus, WHO Representative in the Philippines, said it succinctly during the launch of PRSAP 2023-2028: the tragic tally of road crash deaths is heading in the right direction, downwards, but nowhere near fast enough. “Road safety is a multisectoral concern. We should continue to work together to keep our road safe,” he pointed out.

Image credits: Junpinzon, Thor Jorgen Udvang, Phuongphoto, Michael Edwards, Renato Borlaza, Ian Redding | Dreamstime.com

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