Road accidents are the fourth leading cause of deaths in the Philippines. This translates to around 36,000 preventable deaths every year. Reckless driving, cell phone use and drunk driving all contribute to fatal collisions.
Here are major factors affecting road safety and what the government can do about it. I have also included some safety tips for our drivers and pedestrians.
Factors that affect road safety
1. Drunk driving. Don’t drink and drive. Those who drive while intoxicated are at very high risk of dying due to accidents. This is especially true for young drivers. Statistics show that a third of road deaths are due to drunk driving.
2. Distracted driving. A major cause of distraction is talking over the cell phone or texting while driving. Data shows that around 10 percent of accidents are due to a distracted driver. No matter how good you are at driving, the simple act of texting will take your eyes off the road briefly. And in a split second, you can already figure in an accident. If you really need to text or call someone, get off the road and stop first.
3. Seat belt use. Studies show that half the people killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts at the time of the mishap. Wearing a seat belt is a simple habit that can dramatically reduce the risk of injury and death. For front seat passengers, the use of seat belts can lower the risk of dying by 45 percent, and decrease the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.
4. Teen driving. Teen drivers are four times more likely than adult drivers to be in a car smash up. They tend to lack driving experience, be more prone to drunk driving, speeding, and are less likely to wear seat belts. Teens also love to chat, eat and play loud music inside the car, all of which make them susceptible to accidents. Moreover, teens driving with other teens, especially during the night, greatly increases reckless behavior and fatal incidents.
5. Older adults driving. Data shows that seniors 75 and older, like teens, are more likely to be in car accidents. For those over 65, driving can help them stay independent. But they are also at increasing risk for accidents. The major reason is the decline in an older person’s eyesight, hearing and reflexes. To compensate for this, older drivers can take the following precautions: 1) Drive only when conditions are safest such as during a sunny day; 2) Ask your doctor to review your medications; 3) Get your eyes and ears checked yearly; 4) Do strengthening exercises; and 5) Drive with an adult companion.
6. Pedestrian safety. Here in the Philippines, we see buses racing each other and pedestrians jumping over road islands to cross the highway. It is a truly dangerous sight. For pedestrians, it is actually more dangerous to walk the streets than to ride in a car. On the average, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car accident compared to a person inside a car.
Pedestrians who are over 65 and those who are drunk are at greater risk for mishaps. In addition, more deaths occur in urban areas and at night. To be safe, pedestrians should wear bright-colored clothing, – or light colors at night – follow traffic rules and be careful when crossing the street. Never assume a car has seen you and will stop for you.
It is also safer to walk on the sidewalk than on the street. If you need to walk on the street, you should walk facing the traffic flow and not have your back against coming traffic.
What the government can do
1. To deal with drunk driving, prohibition of alcohol sales to those under 21 should be strictly enforced. As well, there should be sobriety checkpoints on the road. To make this effective, law enforcers should acquire breath analyzing devices that can assess the alcohol level in the body.
2. Prohibit the use of cell phones while driving.
3. Enforce the law on the use of seat belts. Impose a larger fine on violators. The higher the fine imposed, the more passengers there will be complying with the seat belt law.
4. Teen drivers should be discouraged from driving at night or driving without adult supervision. The traffic police should be more on the lookout for teens who violate the law. Some countries have increased the age when one may get a student’s permit and a professional license.
5. To assist older adults, the government can make public transportation convenient for the elderly so that they will have a reliable and safe means of travel.
6. To help protect pedestrians, there should be convenient walkways, strategically located overpasses and covered waiting sheds for commuters.
Finally, the government needs to strictly enforce traffic rules, improve traffic flow and ensure safer roads. Drivers, on the other hand, should do proper and regular maintenance on their vehicles, follow traffic rules and show courtesy to other cars and pedestrians.
Accident prevention is a joint effort. Let us all do our parts.