JEAN Todt, the UN special envoy for road safety, says if countries are to succeed in reducing traffic deaths and injuries, they have to tackle the issue of excessive and inappropriate speeding, which he said is the biggest factor in the cause and severity of collisions.“We know that just a five per cent reduction in average speed can reduce the risk of fatal crashes by 30 per cent. Speed kills. If we slow down we save lives. This is the message that we have to repeat again and again,” the UN special envoy told Wednesday’s function to mark the fourth United Nations Global Road Safety Week at Jamaica House in Kingston.
It was hosted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) in partnership with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Foundation. The event, staged to highlight the ongoing UN #SlowDown campaign, seeks to increase understanding of the dangers of speed and generate actions on measures to address speed.
Todt, who was accompanied by granddaughter of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, Zoleka Mandela, who serves as the ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health & Mobility, touted ‘slowing down’ as the vaccine needed to combat road deaths.
He added that the message to obey the speed limit by Olympian Yohan Blake, who is an ambassador for the FIA High Level Panel for Road Safety and ‘3500 Lives’ campaign, has already been launched in more than 30 countries and 600 cities around the world.
The campaign message, he said, will be seen more than one billion times in this phase of the roll-out, and by the end of 2017 they would have reached 70 countries with vital messages on drunk driving, wearing motorcycle helmets and seat belts and not using mobile phones while operating a vehicle.
“Underlying the [UN] 3,500 lives campaign is a crucial political message. It is a message that in my role as the secretary general’s special envoy for road safety, I have been talking to presidents and prime ministers, and transport and health ministers across the world,” Todt said.
“We know how to fix the problem, we have the solutions. We have the mandate in the sustainable development goals, so we need the political commitment and the leadership to make it happen”.
Mandela, in her presentation, also stressed the need for more action to be taken against speeding, adding that actions should be taken urgently for the protection of children and young people.
“Each day 3,000 children are killed or injured all around the world on our roads. This number is scary, it’s deeply shocking and I think we are all in agreement that it is completely unacceptable. The scale of this crisis is bad enough, but what I find even more shocking is how little is being done to prevent it,” she said.
She added that there are solutions but, too often, they are not being put in place. She said that measures needed to save lives are simple, such as ensuring safe crossings for children going to schools or sidewalks to separate pedestrians.
Mandela gave a recent example from her country where almost 20 schoolchildren were killed when the bus in which they were travelling collided with a construction truck and both vehicles burst into flames with the children trapped inside the bus.
“As a mother whose daughter was tragically killed by a speeding drunk driver, there are no words to describe the unexplainable and excruciating pain of having to bury your child or having to have a closed casket as a result of the injuries sustained not only to their face, but to their body,” a visibly emotional Mandela stated.
“The loss of a child is a wound that never heals and we are left constantly wondering how much more you or any parent can endure, that pain you have to live with for all your life,” she added.
The road safety advocate said the situation is not unique to her or her country, but is repeated around the world as millions of children face the same horror every day.
She called for renewed action, especially from the political directorate, to make roads safer in Jamaica and around the world, as she quoted from her her grandfather: “We must not despair. We must not accept defeat. We must not forget that it is in our power to change the world.”