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Rethink mobility: Redesigning roads for everyone

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Safer roads is a concern that everyone shares.  We all want to protect the vulnerable members of society – children, pedestrians, and cyclists – from death or injury on the roads.

Today, as the observance of the 7th UN Global Road Safety Week comes to a close, we call attention to its focus on “sustainable transport, in particular the need to shift to walking, cycling and using public transport.”

The government and private sectors must continue to take action to ensure safe roads, safe vehicles and behavior, as well as to improve emergency care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with around 1.3 million people killed and as many as 50 million people injured each year. For people aged five to 29 years, there is no greater threat to their lives. Globally, one of every four deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists.”

That can be prevented by addressing the whole of the transport system, according to the WHO’s Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 which sets an ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 percent by 2030.

The key message is to rethink mobility.  “Safety must be at the core of efforts to reimagine how we move in the world.”  Working towards this needs “road networks to be designed with the most at risk in mind” – making walking and cycling safe, which will contribute to making people healthy and cities sustainable.

Etienne Krug, director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health, WHO, states how we can start: “A new vision of mobility would demand building or redesigning roads, not for cars, but for everyone. Governments could achieve this by increasing investments in modes such as walking, cycling and public transport.”

He said that these initiatives are already being done in many countries, one of them France which he said has invested two billion euros over the next four years to build cycle roads and provide financial help to buy bikes.

“Making way for safe walking and cycling can impact favorably on health and the environment, allowing people to reap the rewards of being physically active and breathing clean air.  When they are made safe, buses, trams and commuter trains, which carry more people than private motor vehicles, can be champions for inclusion and prosperity,” the WHO director said.

A focus of the global initiative aims to ensure a safe transport system for all road users. WHO said “the cornerstones of this approach are safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, safe vehicles, and safe road users, all of which must be addressed in order to eliminate fatal crashes and reduce serious injuries.”

Of the many driver’s behavior that can make our roads unsafe, we would like to highlight distracted driving by the use of mobile phones.  Although we have a law that imposes heavy fines on violators, in Metro Manila we see the use of mobile phones frequently, even among motorcycle riders who have the skill to either call or send text messages while on the go.

WHO reports that the distraction caused by mobile phones is a growing concern for road safety. “Drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone. Using a phone while driving slows reaction times (notably braking reaction time, but also reaction to traffic signals), and makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances.”

While the government rethinks mobility, it is our duty as road users to contribute to making roads safer. Start with that mobile phone. Do not make or take a call while driving. Reading or sending a message can wait.  “Texting considerably increases the risk of a crash,” a WHO study said.

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