Remembering road crash victims

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi launched the revised Road Safety and Transport Regulations-2021

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

To respond on the growing urgencies of road crash victims and their loss and suffering, and also guide as an important tool for governments and those who work to prevent crashes or respond in the aftermath, the World Day of Remembrance (WDoR) for Road Traffic Victims was observed on 21 November.

Among others the event offers opportunity to demonstrate the enormous scale and impact of road-related deaths and injuries, and the urgent need for action to combat its aftermaths.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the WDoR for Road Traffic Victims was started by Road Peace in 1993. Since then it has been observed and promoted worldwide by several NGOs, including the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR) and its associated organizations.

It was then adopted by the UN General Assembly Resolution 60/5 on 26th October 2005 as an “appropriate acknowledgement for victims of road traffic crashes and their families”.

The Day is commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year and is a high-profile global event to remember the many millions who have been killed and seriously injured on the world’s roads and to acknowledge the suffering of all affected victims, families and communities.

This day also offers prospect to pay tribute to the dedicated emergency crews, police and medical professionals, who deal daily with the traumatic aftermath of road crashes.

A press release from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) states, “Their remembrance represents a lesson learned, because today we know that being responsible saves lives. Keeping their memories alive serves to prevent further crash victims which would help to take measures to prevent these tragedies from recurring today and in the future.”

The press release further adds that the objectives of WDoR 2021 was to provide a platform for road traffic victims and their families to remember all people killed and seriously injured on the roads and acknowledge the crucial work of the emergency services.

It also aims to draw attention to the generally trivial legal response to culpable road deaths and injuries; advocate for better support for road traffic victims and victim families, and promote evidence-based actions to prevent and eventually stop further road traffic deaths and injuries.

Commemorating the event the Minister for Information and Communications, Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said, “The day is to express our sincere gratitude and appreciations to the emergency service providers and reflect on the tremendous burden and costs of this continuing disaster to families and communities world-wide.”

Lyonpo said road fatalities and injuries are sudden, violent, and traumatic events, and their impact is long-lasting, often permanent. Each year, millions of newly injured and bereaved people from every corner of the world are added to the countless millions of people who are already suffering. “The cumulative toll is truly tremendous.”

Lyonpo said that the grief and distress experienced by many people is greater because many of the victims are young and many of the crashes could-have and should-have been prevented.

“The society’s response to road crash fatalities and injuries and to the bereaved and injured victims is often inadequate, unsympathetic and inappropriate to a loss of life or quality of life,” Lyonpo said.

The theme for the WDoR 2021 is “ACT for LOW SPEEDS”, which have the potential to prevent many deaths and serious injuries, in particular those of pedestrians and all other vulnerable road users – children, elderly and the disabled.

The theme also highlighted the importance of speed in the reduction of fatal road crashes. It said speed is a significant road safety issue and vehicle speed plays a part in every crash.

According to WHO, speed has been identified as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of a road crash as well as the severity of injuries that result from road crashes.

Studies reveal there is strong evidence that low speeds on the roads save lives, especially among pedestrians, cyclists, children, and young people and have environmental and other benefits.

The MoIC minister said the day has become an important tool, in the global efforts, to reduce road casualties. He said it offers opportunity for drawing attention to the scale of emotional and economic devastation caused by road crashes and for giving due recognition to the suffering of road-crash victims, and the work of support and rescue services.

According to e-Registration & Licensing Information System (eRaLIS) of Road Safety and Transport Authority, as of October 2021, the country registered 117,748 motor vehicles and 156,204 driving license holders.

From July 2019 to June 2020, there have been 1,208 motor vehicle accidents in the country, of which 90 were fatal, and 692 were injured.

Lyonpo said road traffic injuries, cause considerable social and economic losses to individuals, their families and to the nation as a whole. He said the losses arise from the costs of treatment as well as lost productivity for those killed or disabled by such injuries and their family members who need to take time-off work to care for the injured.

“The analysis of road traffic accidents in Bhutan, through a study conducted by International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion in 2018 concluded that the productivity loss due to such accidents is around one percent of the national gross domestic product,” Lyonpo said.

Meanwhile, as part of the commemoration, the revised Road Safety and Transport Regulations-2021 was also launched.

The Road Safety and Transport Regulations, 1999 has now been revised and updated. Lyonpo said that this is to meet the emerging needs of surface transport in the country, with particular emphasis on improving road safety, service delivery and enhancing efficiency of public transport services in the country.

Additionally, two audio-visual clips aimed at creating public awareness on the importance of ownership transfer of motor vehicles and the purpose of traffic signs, and road markings were also launched.