Can we bring Safety First?

Road travel is considered to be one of the basic necessities of any human being. In the modern world, journeys that we undertake for going to work, school, the market or just for a leisure weekend are almost as important as the longer journeys we take to meet friends and relatives or to see parts of our countries and world that we haven’t been to – although increasingly the lack of time and overall improved prosperity makes the latter the territory of air travel.And the incidence of road travel of any form will only rise as will the incidence of road travel related injuries and death. It is as plain as day – as more and more people get on the roads, accident rates will rise and losses will mount. A WHO report on road safety projects some staggering data: It shows that that in 2004, road injuries that caused death was the 9th largest killer accounting for 2.2% of deaths globally. By 2030, road deaths are set to rise to 3.6% at the 5th rank, only outdone by Ischaemic heart disease, Cerebrovascular disease, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Lower respiratory infections. In the process, it will manage to outstrip HIV/AIDS as a killer! To some, the fact that in many countries road traffic accidents are the prime cause of death among the age group of 15-29 years is worrying enough. The matter is a highly complicated one – how do we make our roads any safer without making it impossible to travel? Automation? Regulation? Or do we just depend on stricter policing of the roads? Cars are part of the problem and part of the solution too – cars have never been more regulated in terms of safety, never been safer than they are today and they are the best built in engineering terms (the result of 125 years of development). At the same time, the car as a means of transport is now coveted by a huge chunk of the world’s population that could only dream about such a thing happening a decade ago. Millions in China, india, Brazil and other developing countries are able to buy a car and “Have car, will travel!” A huge seachange is required in how we look at road safety. We need to educate the budding driver, re-educate the veteran and most importantly make road safety a part of everyone’s learning curriculum. It means all the difference between someone using a walkway as opposed to dashing across 6 lanes of high-speed traffic on Sultan Qaboos Road. Are we getting the message at all? The Moscow declaration of the ‘Decade of Road Safety’ (2011-2020) by the UN sponsored by Oman and Russia is a beginning. This wake up call should be heard by everyone who is able to spread the message of ‘Safety First’. Why should we be left behind, being part of Oman’s car scene for the past decade? So we will run, through this year a campaign targeted at schools and professional bodies and corporates that highlights road safety and the importance it plays on individuals. After all, we believe that the two go hand in hand, the act of enjoying a drive in a finely-balanced powerhouse of a car and of returning to enjoy it another day. For some of us it is almost as if we say that our profession is one with safety.

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