In 2005, the UN called for governments to mark the third Sunday in November of each year as World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

I don't know if Sierra Leone observed the day of remembrance this year, but two of their West African neighbors took the opportunity to commemorate victims of traffic collisions and to acknowledge their responsibility to prevent serious injuries on their roadways.

In Ghana and Nigeria, people concerned with road traffic crashes and their consequences ensured that the advocacy opportunity of this day was fully realized.

Nigeria's press reported events that ran from the unveiling of a National Drivers Training Manual to awareness walks held by advocates of road safety and road danger reduction. In Lagos, Federal Road Safety Commission officials, dressed in symbolic black, distributed leaflets and flyers about safety on the roads during a candlelight procession for victims of road traffic accidents. Campaigners for road safety and road danger reduction were also present.

The Federal Road Safety Commission disclosed that no fewer than 5, 000 Nigerians lose their lives annually to road crashes across the country. According to the FRSC, fourteen people die each day in crashes across the nation. In the state of Lagos, between 1989 and June 2008, a total of 14,384 people died on roads, while 41,357 sustained injuries of varying magnitudes. More than 108,930 vehicles crashed on Lagos roads during the same period.

Bad roads, bad drivers, and bad vehicles are the major causes of road crashes across the country say the Nigerian federal government. They have given the FRSC two years to reduce the appalling number of road crashes across the country.

Ghana, once rated the second highest road crash-prone country among six West African nations in 2001, reported that a provisional result from January to December 2007 shows that in 12,038 reported road crashes there had been 2,043 deaths. But Ghana's National Road Safety Commission urged more could be done during the annual road safety week to create greater awareness for road users.

The Ghanaian agency packed an event-filled awareness week with meetings with religious leaders at the capital's Engineers Centre, radio interviews with political leaders and policy makers, road safety quizzes in schools, and road safety outreach programs at selected locations. In Cape Coast, a road peace walk was attended by hundreds of first responders: police, firefighters, the Ghana Private Road Transport Union, Red Cross Society, and the students of the Cape Coast Polytechnic. The week ended with church visits to road crash victims.

At a press conference the following week, Ghana's minister of road transportation reported that about 38 percent of the total road crash fatalities occurred on three of Ghana's major roads: Accra to Kumasi, Accra to Cape Coast, and Accra to Aflao. The minister also said Ghana's road agencies have, over the period of 2005-07, identified hazardous locations on both urban and trunk road networks and recommended mitigation measures.

So what is Sierra Leone doing?

I know we were one of the thirty-seven nations at the African Road Safety Conference held in February 2007 in Accra, Ghana. The overall theme was road safety and the millennium development goals; and reducing road traffic fatalities by half by 2015. But
I don't know whether Sierra Leone observed the day of remembrance this year

With this weekend's report of yet another serious road crash—of injuries and deaths that are preventable, I, like many Sierra Leoneans abroad, would really like to hear about what progress is being made in improving road safety. I'd like to learn about how the GoSL is planning implementation of the recommendations of the World report on road traffic injury prevention and the African Road Safety Initiative, how the government is advancing the development of national action plans for road safety, and how they are identifying ways of mobilizing resources to rapidly improve road safety.

Here's hoping that Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority quickly fills the vacancy for head of safety and enforcement it advertised on November 17th, 2008. That the 2009 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims will be observed and promoted nationwide. And all road crash victims will be acknowledged appropriately.

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