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Passengers bear brunt of road crashes

WHO report reveals they make up one out of three fatalities in Bhutan 

While negligent driving may be responsible for most motor vehicle crashes in the country, it is passengers mostly who pay with their lives.

Passengers of four-wheeled and light vehicles top the list of road users who die in motor vehicle mishaps in Bhutan, states the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a decade of action, published today by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the report, 33 percent of road users, who died on the roads in Bhutan in 2010, were passengers.

There were 1,260 motor vehicle crashes reported in 2010, as per the ministry of information and communications’ Annual InfoComm and Transport Statistical Bulletin for March 2011.  But traffic division recorded 978 motor vehicle crashes for the same year.

At 28 percent, the other category of road users, who do not survive motor vehicle crashes, are drivers of four-wheeled and light vehicles.  They are followed by drivers and passengers of heavy trucks at 19 percent, and drivers and passengers of buses at 13 percent.

The road safety report, states that five percent of the road user victims were pedestrians, and the remaining two percent were those who rode two-wheelers.

Of the 79 traffic fatalities reported in 2010, including those who died within 30 days after the crash, 71 percent were males and 29 percent females.

About 66 lives were lost to road crashes every year in Bhutan between 2005 and 2010.  In these five years, road crashes killed 319 people and injured 2,648 across the country.

The report highlights that:
•59 countries, covering 39% of the world’s population, have implemented an urban speed limit of 50km/h or less, and allow local authorities to further reduce these limits.

•89 countries, covering 66% of the world’s population, have a comprehensive drink-driving law, defined as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05g/dl or less.

•90 countries, covering 77% of the world’s population, have motorcycle helmet laws, which cover all riders on all roads with all engine types, and have a motorcycle helmet standard.

•111 countries, covering 69% of the world’s population, have comprehensive seat-belt laws covering all occupants.

•96 countries, covering 32% of the world’s population, have a law requiring child restraints.

With a fatality rate of 15 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles, which is one of the highest in the region, Bhutan committed in 2011 to reduce the rate to five per 10,000 vehicles by 2020.

However, traffic police division recorded 1,374 motor vehicle crashes in 2011, which claimed more than 100 lives and left more than 600 injured.  The death rate was 17 per 10,000 vehicles in 2011.

“The pace of legislative change needs to rapidly accelerate if the number of deaths from road traffic crashes is to be substantially reduced,” states the WHO’s global status report on road safety.

According to the report, only 28 countries, covering seven percent of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on all five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints.

In 2010, there were 1.24M deaths worldwide from road traffic crashes, roughly the same number as in 2007, the report states and recommended that the key to reducing road traffic mortality would be to ensure member states have in place laws covering the five key risk factors.

“Political will is needed at the highest level of government to ensure appropriate road safety legislation and stringent enforcement of laws by which we all need to abide,” WHO director-general, Dr Margaret Chan, said.

Philanthropist and mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, whose foundation funded the report, said the report serves as a strong warning to governments that more needs to be done to protect all those who use the roads. “Road traffic fatalities and injuries are preventable,” he said.

By Sonam Pelden

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