Road Safety Is No Accident
TRANSPORTATION/PUBLIC WORKS/HEALTH PROMOTION -Road Safety Is NoAccident Road Safety Is No Accident is the theme of World Health Day 2004,Wednesday, April 7, and it’s a message supported by road safetyadvocates across Nova Scotia. “Although road collisions are reported as accidents, most arepreventable,” said Ron Russell, Minister of Transportation andPublic Works. “Impaired driving is a factor in one of every fourroad users killed in Nova Scotia, and the non-use of seatbelts isa factor in an equal number of deaths. Clearly, nothing is moreimportant than individual choices when it comes to road safety.” Raising awareness of the economic costs and health and socialimpacts of road traffic injuries is a specific objective of WorldHealth Day 2004, and Mr. Russell said costs are higher than mostpeople think. “We’ve had some success in reducing the number of collisions, butthe long-term costs are enormous for both the victims and theirfamilies, and for our health-care services,” he said. “Last year,70 Nova Scotians died on our roadways. That’s 70 too many.” The minister cited a report titled the Economic Burden ofUnintentional Injury in Atlantic Canada, released by the AtlanticNetwork for Injury Prevention last year, that found unintendedinjuries cost Nova Scotians $372 million in 1999. Motor vehiclecrashes accounted for $74 million. The economic toll is huge, but even bigger is the toll injuriestake on peoples’ lives. “The reality of road collisions is that it’s a matter of life anddeath,” said Dr. John Tallon, emergency physician and medicaldirector for both the Nova Scotia Trauma Program and the QEIITrauma Service. “Each day I see patients come into the emergencyroom with injuries from motor vehicle crashes that could havebeen prevented had people made different choices — drivenslower, worn a seatbelt, not had that drink.” The recently developed provincial injury prevention strategy willreduce injury in Nova Scotia by addressing three main causes – motor vehicle collisions, falls and self-inflicted injury.Implementation of the strategy is being led by the Office ofHealth Promotion in conjunction with other government departments– including Transportation and Public Works — and many non-government organizations. “Improving the health of Nova Scotians includes protecting themfrom injury — at home, at work and on the roads,” said HealthPromotion Minister Rodney MacDonald. “We’re the only provincewith an injury prevention strategy that will improvecollaboration on initiatives to reduce injury across Nova Scotiaand ultimately, save lives.” The World Health Organization says a key to a successful roadsafety program is to engage government and private sector groupsin co-ordinated programs of road safety research, development andimplementation. Nova Scotia’s own Road Safety Advisory Committeeincludes members of non-profit organizations, government,industry, policing and others, and leads the way to improvingroad safety in this province. The committee is guided by RoadSafety Vision 2010, a national plan that aims to reduce thenumber of road users killed and seriously injured across Canadaby 30 per cent by 2010. Alcohol countermeasures, occupantrestraint, driver behaviour, and pedestrian, bicycle andmotorcycle safety are its main areas of concern. “We’ve taken a number of steps over the years to reduce trafficinjury, including strong messages about driver choices, policeenforcement, improved vehicle safety standards, and highwaydesign. Government programs, such as mandatory seat belts andgraduated licensing contribute to safety, but there are still fartoo many preventable injuries,” said Mr. Russell. This is the first time in its 56 years that the World HealthOrganization (WHO) has selected road safety as the focus of WorldHealth Day. WHO has reported that 1.2 million people are killedannually in road collisions — 3,000 people around the worldevery day with an additional 140,000 injured. In Canada, as in Nova Scotia, traffic fatalities peaked in theearly 1970s. WHO has reported that since that time, Canada’spopulation has grown by 40 per cent, and the number of vehicleshas increased by 80 per cent. Despite this increased mobility,the number of traffic fatalities has been cut by more than half.