By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Many Namibians do not seem to realize the importance of fastening a seat belt and probably think “it (accident) will never happen to me.” Estimations are that there are close to 300 road accidents in Namibia each year, while compliance by drivers and passengers to strap a seat belt accounts for 30 percent of them. Furthermore, Namibia loses millions of dollars every year because of traffic crashes and injuries on the roads; in fact, it is as high as one percent of Gross Domestic Product. Other contributing factors are drunken driving, going through red lights, speeding, dangerous driving and using cellphones whilst driving. It is against this background that the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), in partnership with a global body called Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP), is planning to conduct a baseline survey on seat belt compliance in Namibia towards the end of this week. This forms part of the national seat belt campaign project to be undertaken at a cost of N$70ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 by the NRSC. The latest development comes in light of Namibia having been chosen as a focus country by GRSP International as part of its global road safety strategy. As its acronym signifies, GRSP is a global partnership between businesses, civil society and governmental organizations working together to improve road safety conditions around the world. Consequently, GRSP Namibia was established as a focus country with a signed Memorandum of Understanding last year agreed with the GRSP International Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. GRSP has been legally registered as a Section 21 Company. As an all-inclusive partnership with other stakeholders like the Namibian Police, GTZ, the Swedish Embassy and NRSC, the aim is to complement the already existing road safety campaigns like Xupifa Eemwenyo and others. “It is about transforming how road safety is managed in the country. We want GRSP to manage the road safety sector through private sector involvement. Whatever GRSP is doing, it will fit in with the national strategy,” said Deputy Director of NRSC, Eugene Tendekule, at the launch of GRSP Namibia yesterday. In the past, the NRSC was inundated with requests from the private sector who wanted to become involved in road safety but, with the capacity and resources, NRSC had to seek a neutral body to coordinate and harmonize the campaign. Senior Adviser of GRSP, Michael Winnett, said road traffic accidents are a major killer in Africa and throughout the world. “Road crashes do not receive the full attention they deserve as a killer and destroyer of humanity, despite the fact that, as a burden of disease, it ranks higher than HIV and Malaria,” explained Winnett. According to the World Health Organization, the mortality rate of road accident injuries in Africa is the highest in the world, costing in the region US$7-billion or 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Generally, on the continent there is a huge under-investment in road safety activities, perhaps because it is not seen as a major cost to the nation. But it is, said Winnett. “Road safety suffers from under-investment and lack of resources, especially for the police who are the prime deliverers of road safety,” he added. Lack of new designs in road layouts and lack of foresight are some of the contributing factors to road accidents, said Winnett, adding that he recently saw one example in Windhoek where there are two shopping centres with a road in-between, but with no such thing as a pedestrian crossing. GRSP wants to find more effective and innovative ways of dealing with road safety in developing countries. GRSP Namibia will therefore add capacity to the national programme and open the door to international good practice that can be adapted to the situation in Namibia. As long-term plans, among other projects lined up by GRSP Namibia is to implement a Driver’s Code of Conduct among corporate members as part of the local partnership agreement, develop a multi-source database to provide a baseline for its road safety activities, a SADC Conference hosted by GRSP Namibia on Regional Standardization and a Taxi Driver Code of Conduct. Fasten your seat belt – it’s the right thing to do.
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