April 08, 2004

International Transportation Group Praises New Transport Plan


On World Traffic Safety Day, international transportation experts from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) highlighted simple, inexpensive steps to save lives lost in traffic accidents.

Over 1.2 million people died from road traffic injuries worldwide in 1998, according to the World Health Organization, which is launching a one-year traffic safety campaign on April 7.  If current trends continue, the number of people killed nad injured on the world’s roads will rise by more than 60% between 2000 and 2020.  Most of these injuries will occur in developing countries.

“Developing countries are motorizing rapidly, but this does not mean more people have to die in traffic accidents,” said Gauthier.  “When streets are designed with all road users in mind—especially children, cyclists and pedestrians—lives will be saved.  Engineering solutions have immediate, tangible effects on traffic safety.”

ITDP recommended a series of inexpensive and straightforward design steps to reduce traffic fatalities and provide safe streets for all users: 1) Provide safe space for pedestrians and cyclists—the majority of road users in developing countries, 2) Employ “traffic calming” techniques to build safer roads, 3) Lower speed limits to slow traffic and set appropriate design standards.

Provide Bike Lanes and Sidewalks

Most people in developing countries travel by non-motorized means.  Yet most roads are built without space for pedestrians and cyclists, putting a majority of the road’s users at risk.

“Especially in poor neighborhoods, streets are much more than thoroughfares for cars and trucks.  They serve walkers and cyclists, provide recreational space for children, and are often the most common place for neighbors to meet and converse,” said Gauthier.

“Streets should be built to reflect this reality—no roads should be built or modified without providing bicycle and pedestrian facilities,” said Gauthier.

It is most cost efficient to include traffic calming measures when streets are built, reconstructed or resurfaced, given the outlay of monies needed to do any construction.  The incremental costs associated with traffic calming measures are comparably low to road construction and can easily be included into new construction or road maintenance projects to increase their cost effectiveness.

In Denmark, bicycle lanes reduced the number of cyclists hit by cars by 35 percent.  Some of the lanes reached risk reductions of 70 to 80 percent.  Davis, California also saw a 31% reduction in crashes involving cyclists when bicycle lanes were added to streets.

Design Streets to Save Lives

Many developing countries lack the resources to provide adequate traffic enforcement and, even with more traffic police, many drivers break the law.

Speed bumps, pedestrian crosswalks, islands and other “traffic calming” techniques are inexpensive and self-enforcing measures that reduce traffic deaths.  Physical changes to the road slow down drivers naturally, make them more aware of their surroundings, and provide safe space for all road users (see attached fact sheets).

At a crash hot spot on the main Accra-Kumasi highway in Ghana, for example, speed bumps reduced the number of crashes by 35% between 2000 and 2001.  Fatalities fell by 55% and serious injuries by 76%.

Lower Speed Limits

Simply put, speed kills.  Speed contributes to at least 30% of road traffic crashes and deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Lowering speed limits is a proven way to reduce traffic deaths, although it is less effective in developing countries that lack the resources for enforcement.  Since lower posted limits also guide road designers as they plan new roads or upgrade existing ones, reducing the speed limit leads to long-term improvements in safety and reductions in deaths.

When the speed limit for urban highways was lowered from 60mph to 50mph in Switzerland, pedestrian crashes fell by 20% and pedestrian deaths by 25%.

In Australia, there was a 13% reduction in crashes, and pedestrian crashes were reduced by 22%.  Fatal and serious injury accidents involving pedestrians fell by 46%.


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