Road Safety Problems and Challenges in Africa
Recently, I visited Africa and had the opportunity to observe first hand and discuss with African transportation professionals the gravity of the road safety problems facing the continent. Although it has only about 4% of the world's registered motor vehicles, Africa experiences the highest rate of road traffic fatalities. For instance, Ethiopia has alarmingly high numbers of road traffic deaths and injuries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015 with a total of 478,837 registered vehicles, Ethiopia had 23,837 reported annual road fatalities. That is more than 25 people per 100,000 people who are killed annually due to road crashes. In Kenya, more than 3,000 people are killed on Kenyan roads annually. More than 29 people for every 100,000 people are killed in road crashes every year. Other African countries are facing similar problems and the incidence of traffic crashes has been increasing steadily in many of these countries.
Road traffic deaths and injuries are serious global problems. Recognizing the gravity of road safety problems worldwide, in 2010 the UN General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with a goal of reducing the forecasted level of road traffic fatalities around the world by increasing activities conducted at the national, regional, and global levels. In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the historic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which include an ambitious target of 50% reduction in road traffic deaths and injuries by 2020. These actions by the UN General Assembly were taken as a result of the growing recognition of the enormous problems associated with road traffic accidents. Road traffic crashes remain a major public health problem and a leading cause of death and injury globally with nearly 1.3 million people killed and between 20 and 50 million people injured annually. Over 90% of the fatalities and injuries are in low- and middle-income countries. According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic injuries are the top cause of death among people aged 15-29 years. Road traffic injuries can also present major negative consequences on a country's economy. The UN estimates that "global losses due to road traffic injuries total $58 billion and cost governments between 1 and 3% of their gross national product. In some low- and middle income countries, the loss is more than the total amount of development assistance that they receive." (UN Website- Department of Publications, 2009)
Many of the African countries are recognizing the seriousness of the problem and are facing the challenge of developing strategies and plans to counteract the problem and help meet UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In order to address the problem each country has to gain better understanding of the various factors contributing to the problem including technical, institutional, legal, policy and other related issues.
I want to encourage graduate students enrolled in Morgan's transportation program, especially students from developing countries, to consider pursuing research on different aspects of road safety problems and issues. Morgan faculty members can also collaborate with African transportation professionals and educators by conducting research and educational programs that will contribute toward the alleviation of the crisis. These kinds of activities will provide excellent opportunity to foster mutually beneficial partnerships with African universities and to further expand Morgan's international program by taking advantage of the University's well-developed capabilities and track record in transportation education and research.
Dr. Moges Ayele recently retired from the Federal Highway Administration where he was the Director of the National Highway Institute (NHI). Before joining FHWA, Dr. Ayele was a professor and founding Director of Morgan's Transportation Center and the graduate program in transportation. He is currently serving as a member of the Advisory Committee of the NTC.