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A number of studies of road crashes worldwide (Jacobs et al, 2000)
carried out by TRL in recent years have shown that the road safety situation
throughout the African continent is one of the worst in the world. With approximately
only 4 per cent of the world's motor vehicles, its road fatality share is 2
times greater (10%). In several African countries, a motor vehicle is over
a hundred times more likely to be involved in a fatal road crash than in the
UK or USA.

This is the first review of road safety in Sub Saharan Africa
and the objective was to analyse existing data and information on the road safety
situation in order to identify the data gaps and priority needs. Based on the
poor response received from an earlier survey distributed by the United Nation
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a shorter survey (restricted to crash
data only) was sent to each of the 42 countries. Unfortunately, this too had
a low response with less than 20 per cent providing the data requested. Accordingly,
the analysis was based on published sources such as the IRF statistics, data
identified in the literature review and project reports.

Between 68 and 82 thousand lives are estimated to be lost in road
crashes in Sub Saharan Africa in 2000. This estimate has factored in the problem
of under-reporting in official police statistics, the traditional source for
road casualty data. While the figures are greater than those being reported
by the police, they are lower than previous WHO projections.

The current situation in Sub Saharan Africa was reviewed in terms
of fatality rate (fatalities per 10,000 motor vehicles) and fatality risk (fatalities
per 100,000 population) as well as motorisation level (number of motor vehicles
per 1,000 population). With the highest regional motorisation levels, Southern
Africa also reported the highest fatality risk. Fatality rates varied significantly
within regions with nine countries reporting in excess of 100 fatalities per
10,000 motor vehicles. The East Africa region (Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi)
reported extremely high fatality rates.

Apart from the two largest countries, South Africa and Nigeria,
Sub Saharan Africa reported a 42 per cent increase in road fatalities over the
past decade. This is less than in previous decades but still cause for concern,
especially as the loss appears to be that of working-age men, who are most likely
heads of households and responsible for several family members. As could be
expected with the low motorisation level, many of the road fatalities were pedestrians
or cyclists. Pedestrians accounted for 86% of the fatalities in Addis Ababa
and five countries reported over half of all road fatalities to be vulnerable
road users (pedestrians or two-wheeled vehicle riders).

Despite Africa's serious road safety record, the region has other
more important causes of premature mortality. Road safety is unlikely to become
a top medical or political priority in Africa and limited resources can be expected
to be available for road safety improvements. Maximum use should be made of
the limited resources and lessons should be shared. The recommendations produced
relate to the perceived priority areas where needs are greatest and opportunities
are being missed. In short, this includes the following: a sectoral needs assessment
conducted in-country by local counterparts and priority given to facilitating
the use of crash data and accurate location details. Partnerships need to be
built between the public and private sectors and civil society and community
partnership encouraged. Links need to be strengthened between sectors, especially
with the health sector in order to obtain more accurate estimates of the road
casualty burden.

Road safety issues need to be integrated into the Road Maintenance
Initiative with greater priority given to road safety engineering, especially
the use of road safety audits. Increased reliance on user charges to finance
safety measures should also be promoted as it will be the road users who benefit
and they should share the costs. A central road safety reference system is also
needed to allow future work to build on the existing base of knowledge and minimise

Many of the problems identified were not new, i.e. pedestrian
safety, professional drivers and commercial vehicles, but they still remain
priorities. The lessons learned in motorised countries, i.e. the neglect of
pedestrian safety and need for community participation, should be shared with
Africa in the hope that some of the costs of motorisation and development can
be avoided.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017