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The Decade of Action For Road Safety

May the 11th 2011 saw the launch of a new initiative by the United Nations (UN) in combination with the World Health Organisation (WHO) known as the Decade of Action For Road Safety.  This is an international movement to reduce the number of people who are killed on the roads.  Let’s face it: we love driving, but it’s one of the riskiest things we’ll do, according to the statistics, and this isn’t just a problem for Australia.  The UN wants organisations and governments around the world to work to make roads everywhere safer.  The goal of this movement is to save 5 million lives (that’s more than the population of our neighbours across the Tasman, i.e. New Zealand) over this ten-year period.

What are some of the things that the Decade of Action For Road Safety are doing? The broad goals include developing better, safer roads; designing and manufacturing safer cars; what the UN call “enhancing the behaviour of road users”, otherwise known as driver education; and improving post-crash care so people have more chance of surviving a road crash.  Road crashes go beyond just car crashes; it also involves bike accidents.

This decade has only just been officially launched, so at the moment, raising awareness is the name of the game.  Events are being planned worldwide, with the first one being projection of the logo (which looks like one of those familiar yellow diamond road signs) onto international landmarks – including the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  You can buy the tag to wear as a fashion statement (and as a way of funding research into this area), and we’re going to see it turning up all over the place.

This is all very big and very exciting, but what can the average Aussie motorist do to contribute to this global plan of action to reduce road deaths?  Five million deaths prevented worldwide is a big target, but where it all comes down is to individual drivers. So what can you do?

  • Be sensible.  We’ve heard stories about people who buy a car with all the latest safety bits and pieces (e.g. ABS brakes, airbags, crumple zones, ESP) and then think that because they’ve got a safe car that is less likely to crash, they don’t have to wear their seatbelts.  Bad idea. 
  • Have a look at your own driving.  Have any bad habits crept into your driving style that are likely to contribute to a crash (e.g. cornering too fast or crossing the centre line to smooth a corner just like a racing driver)?  You could consider signing up for a refresher defensive driving course or an advanced driving course to improve your skills in handling things like skids.
  • Look at your transport options.  We love our cars and you’d be hard pushed to do without one completely if you’re a typical Australian with a typical job, but most of us could probably find a few trips in our week that really could be walked or biked.  This is for two reasons.  Firstly, it’s motorised transport that causes most of the fatalities on the roads, so if we can reduce the number of cars on the roads, we can reduce the number of fatalities.  Secondly, if drivers see bikes on the road more often, they’ll get used to sharing the road and adjusting to the needs of cyclists.
  • Buy one of the yellow tags to help fund research into safer road design.  These are available as badges, necklaces, mini-tags and reflective tags for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • If you’re part of a non-profit organisation (e.g. a church or a school) then host your own event. Non-profit NGOs can use the official logo for free by signing up and letting the official organisation know more about your group and what you plan to do about road safety.

Find out more at the official website: http://www.decadeofaction.org/.

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