Traffic Accidents, Not at All Accidental

Witnessing traffic accidents on a daily or weekly basis is infuriating. They have become so rampant that the public has come to associate them with luck, something the fortunate escape, and not as incidents that could be avoided. But this should no longer continue as traffic accidents at the scale we currently have, where thousands of people die every year, are exacting a huge socio-economic cost.

Globally, more than 1.25 million people die annually due to traffic accidents, according to the World Health Organization. Another 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many becoming permanently disabled. Despite having one of the lowest car-to-population ratios, Ethiopia records one of the highest rates of car accidents in the world.

In the first half of the 2016/17 fiscal year alone, 2,315 people died as a result of traffic accidents, while around a quarter of a billion Birr in property was lost, according to the Federal Police Commission.

Last Friday afternoon, a colleague of mine and I were rushing to a meeting in Bole when we got stuck in traffic on Africa Avenue.

It was not long after we joined the queue that we passed by a private vehicle with five passengers inside it. They had turned the music on pretty high and were evidently intoxicated. The traffic police in charge of the area did not give them a second look at what was clearly a violation of traffic rules.

Unfortunately, this kind of lack of responsibility by those tasked to handle such matters comes from every angle. Most of us have a relative or a friend whose driving license was issued either because the training school had some connections or they themselves did at the Drivers & Mechanics Training Centre in Qality. Lives are lost and properties damaged because there are some who do not want to pass through the hassle of earning their drivers licenses.

The rules and regulations implemented to address traffic accidents have evidently been ineffective. Action-focused awareness creation, responsibility taking, strict implementation of traffic rules,and bringing behavioural change to drivers has not effectively been put into practice.

The societal and economic cost of accidents is substantial. Road traffic injuries cause considerable economic losses to individuals, their families and to the country. These damages arise from the cost of treatment as well as lost productivity for those killed or injured as well as for family members who need to take time off work or school to care for the injured.

Research says traffic accidents cost most countries in the world three percent of their gross domestic product. Reducing road traffic deaths and injuries could result in substantial long-term economic benefit for countries like Ethiopia, as research by the World Bank finds. Successfully implementing road safety that everyone respects should be given attention by policymakers, traffic police, drivers and the public.

A curious take away should be that these accidents are caused mostly by human error. Most drivers are bold enough to drive intoxicated and even brag about it. Yet others are neglectful about the service their car requires and the rest feel that driving at higher speeds on roads is proof of their virility.

It is alarming that lack of adequate solutions will make traffic accidents the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, killing those who are at the prime of their lives. Developing countries like Ethiopia, who will still have the lowest number of vehicles in the country, will continue to have the highest fatalities.

Fortunately, most road accidents are preventable. Effective road safety implementation is essential to tackle the extensive problem. This approach should work toward mindset change by improving the traffic system to create safety awareness among drivers and pedestrians. Additionally, it can make road infrastructure more safe.

Such initiatives should also include improving the safety features of vehicles, improving post-crash care for victims of road crashes, setting and enforcing laws when it comes to traffic violations.

Promising interventions in enforcing speed limits, use of breathlysers to stomp out driving under the influence and integrating road safety in all layers of planning, design and operation of road infrastructure has brought promising improvements. However, getting rid of poorly maintained vehicles and building on awareness creation campaigns should be able to address the problem better.

As drivers and pedestrians, we also need to take a portion of the responsibility. Too many people fail to see traffic rules as necessities that could save their lives but rather as laws to be followed according to preference whenever the traffic police are not around.

While having a law is undoubtedly vital, the focus should be to encourage people to make the right decisions that can help them and others. Self-control by the very same people that make use of the vehicles and streets could better address traffic accidents than can strict regulation by the government.


By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law and international economic law. She can be reached at

Published on Oct 20,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 964]



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