6 Feb 19

Asian roads still not safe

When the World Health Organisation released its 2018 report on Road Safety, it showed that globally, 1.35 million people lost their lives in a traffic related accident. WHO’s report editor, trying to say something positive about this unacceptably high number, introduces the report by mentioning that “existing road safety efforts may have mitigated the situation from getting worse.”

Effectively, the number of motorized vehicles has increased and so has the global population; therefore the absolute number of deaths might have increased, but the death rate has remained stable. It could have been worse indeed.

No. 1 cause of child death

Amongst the 5 to 29 years old category, road traffic injuries are the main cause of death. Across categories, more people die as a result of traffic accidents than of HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.

In addition, there’s a strong relationship between road traffic death and income levels; low-income countries have a death rate of 27.5 per 100,000 population, whereas high-income countries only have a 8.3 to 100,000 death ratio. In other words, young people in low income countries are the most frequent victims.

Many Asian countries are moving from low-income into middle-income, but unfortunately without improving road safety or infrastructure. Consequently, the death rate has increased in 60 out of the 95 (new) middle-class countries.

The worst regions

The global rate of road traffic death is 18.2 per 100,000 population. Africa (26.6) and South-East Asia (20.7) have the worst score, Europe (9.3) the best. Americas, Europe and Western Pacific have improved their rating since 2013; the opposite is true for Africa and South-East Asia.

In Africa, most of the victims are pedestrians and cyclists, whilst in South-East Asia most of them drive motorcycles or three-wheelers.

Legislative initiatives

Another painful conclusion of the WHO report is the lack of basic legislation in many countries, prescribing seatbelts, helmets or penalising drunk driving. Similarly, many countries have no or insufficient laws in place to limit the speed on urban roads. Again, on legislative side, Africa and South-East Asia lag behind.

Road and Vehicle safety

The United Nations have made recommendations to its member-countries to mandate a series of 8 vehicle safety features, such as stability control and advance braking. Unfortunately, only the high-income countries have implemented such features but a total of 124 countries have applied none. In South-Asia and South-East Asia, only India is applying 1 recommendation, i.e. front and side impact protection standards.

As for road safety, 112 countries have some kind of design standards for speed management, 92 countries separate pedestrians and cyclists from motorized traffic and 132 countries provide for safe pedestrian crossings. These figures are based on regulation, rather than on true implementation. Vietnam, for instance, has an extensive set of safety measures, but a short walk in Ho Chi Minh shows that these are only implemented in the international parts of the city, close to expat condos and in streets with government buildings.

For the Fleet Manager

These depressing figures lead to an important conclusion for corporate fleets: it’s up to the Fleet Managers to take care of their employees’ safety. The Fleet Managers dealing with fleets in Asia, especially in South- and South-East Asia, need to address 3 topics:

  • put in place a safety policy that goes beyond the country standards
  • select vehicles with a higher safety standard than mandated by the country
  • provide for driver training

In addition, next to the cars that the international Fleet Managers will see on their fleet reports, there will be a massive hidden amount of motorcycles either purchased by the local subsidiaries or owned by the employees. This, in combination with Asia’s young population and dangerous roads, means that the international Fleet Managers truly have an opportunity to make a difference.

Authored by: Yves Helven