Breadwinners ripped from families

More than 50% of fatalities in Namibian road crashes are passengers and pedestrians, who are effectively innocent bystanders.

09 May 2018 | Accidents

Although statistics for 2018 so far indicate a stark decrease in overall crashes, injuries and lives lost on Namibian roads, children, economically active young people and men remain most at risk of injury and death.

Sidney Boois of the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund told Namibian Sun the statistics of crashes, injuries and fatalities from 1 January to 29 April 2018 “show a substantial reduction”.

Nevertheless, between January and March 2018, youth between the ages of 16 and 35, represented 57% of the total fatalities, followed by children between the ages of zero and 15 - an age group that represented 16% of total deaths.

Statistics on pedestrian fatalities for the same period showed the majority of deaths were in the age group of 16 to 35, which represented 43% of all pedestrian-related fatalities.

“Even though the statistics paint a positive picture on road safety, pedestrian, youth and male-related fatalities still remain a concern,” Boois said.

A recent World Bank report on the high cost of road crashes, and the economic consequences, noted that hypothetically the impact of road crashes and injuries or deaths that result will have macroeconomic “ripple effects”, because they happen most commonly among the economically active age groups.

Recent world health statistics estimate that road injuries or deaths “account for the greatest share of mortality and long-term disability among individuals aged 15 to 29 years, and exact a considerable toll among the working-age population as a whole, aged between 15 and 64 years.”

Moreover, genders impacted are also economically significant.

“Three out of four road deaths are among men, the primary sources of income for households in many societies.”

Furthermore, rural areas often suffer a disproportionate burden as a result of injuries or deaths caused by road accidents.



No change over the years

Statistics published by the MVA Fund in terms of age groups and gender impacted from previous years paint a similar picture.

The fund's 2015 year-end report noted that the most affected by injuries from crashes were young people, mainly between the ages of 16 and 35 years, accounting for 3 721 or 51% of all persons injured in crashes in 2015.

A similar trend was observed in 2014, whereby 56% of the injured persons were young people.

The report noted that another concern are children under 15 years of age, who accounted for 10.9% of those injured in 2015 and who in most cases are vulnerable to pedestrian-related crashes.

The majority of those injured in road crashes in 2014 and 2015 were males.

Similar to the report on injuries, the recorded fatality data for 2015 found the majority who died - 43% - were aged between 16 and 35 years.

A similar pattern was observed in 2014, with 44% of the fatalities being people in this age range.

The 2016, the MVA Fund statistics again found that young people between the ages of 16 to 35 years represented 48% of persons injured and 44% of persons killed in accidents on Namibia's roads.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of persons injured and 72% of those killed in Namibia were male.

Fourteen percent of fatalities were children aged zero to five.



Ripple effect

Horst Heimstädt of the Private Sector Road Safety Forum told Namibian Sun apart from the high financial cost of car crashes, one of the issues that could be attributed to the high rate of fatalities of young people on the roads, could be the “lack of perception of risk”.

He noted that responsibility is taught by experience, and when it comes to road safety, some still consider cars as toys, until that car is involved in an accident.

“Global research has shown that for every crash there are roughly 80 near crashes,” he said.

He further pointed out that more than 50% of fatalities in Namibia are passengers and pedestrians, “innocent bystanders”.

Heimstädt noted that the reduction in crash statistics can be attributed to public education campaigns, in cooperation with improved law enforcement, but warned that without an in-depth analysis of the exact causes, “nobody will be able to claim what has worked”.

He further warned that too many Namibians remain uninterested in the topic until they are directly affected.



Cause for hope

The reduction in crashes, injuries and deaths remains a positive development, the MVA Fund noted.

Compared to the same period last year, 153 people died as a result of car crash related injuries, 79 less people than the year before.

Moreover, 1 828 persons were injured between January and April 2018, compared to 2 251 over the same period in 2017.

In total, 1 087 crashes were recorded during the period this year, compared to a total of 1 298 the year before.

The MVA Fund noted that in total the figures indicate a reduction of crashes, injuries and fatalities by 16%, 19% and 34% respectively.

“The reduction in the year-to-date crash statistics is indeed encouraging and positively reflects on the success of road safety interventions by all road safety partners and stakeholders.”

Boois said the reduced number of accidents could be attributed to a combination of factors, including ongoing as opposed to seasonal road safety campaigns and robust law enforcement and public education.

Moreover, the general public have become actively involved in road safety, by reporting unruly or risky behaviours observed while driving.

Social media and chat platforms have become beehives of alerts shared across cyberspace.

Boois described this as an increase in self-policing by the general public.

“This important concept of self-policing requires all road users to do the right thing all the time, and the right thing is to obey all traffic rules, all the time.”

JANA-MARI SMITH

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