World Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Crashes
Speech by Kenneth Africa, Chief Director: Traffic Management in Khayelitsha
Ladies and gentlemen.
As was alluded to earlier in the programme, The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year – a day on which we remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are also affected. It is also a Day on which we thank the emergency services and reflect on the tremendous burden and cost of this daily continuing disaster to families, communities and countries, as we continue to look for ways to terminate this unnecessary carnage on our roads.
Road deaths and injuries are described as sudden, violent, traumatic events. It is something no person ever wishes for and nobody wishes to be the party that is to be blamed after a tragic road crash has happened, for its impact is long-lasting and often permanent. Each year, millions of newly injured and bereaved people from every corner of the world are added to the countless millions who already suffer. The cumulative toll is truly tremendous.
The grief and distress experienced by this huge number of people is all the greater, because many of the victims are young, while many of the crashes could and should have been prevented and because governments’ and society’s response to road death and injury and to bereaved and injured victims is often inadequate, unsympathetic, and inappropriate to a loss of life or quality of life.
This special Remembrance Day is therefore intended to respond to the great need of road crash victims for public recognition of their loss and suffering. It has also become an important tool for governments and those who work to prevent crashes or respond to the aftermath, since it offers the opportunity to demonstrate the enormous scale and impact of road deaths and injuries and the urgent need for action. Inadvertently, today for me is not about who was to blame in the past, but rather that this day should serve as a “wake-up call” in order for all role players to put words and plans to action and do more towards the prevention of this life-threatening experience that could befall anyone of us the moment we step out as a road user.
The World Remembrance Day has a long history:
- From 1995, road victim organisations under the umbrella of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims observed this Day together – first as European Day of Remembrance, but soon as World Day when NGOs from Africa, South America and Asia, who were associated members of the Federation, joined. Already from 2000, the Pope and other religious leaders remembered road victims worldwide on the 3rd Sunday of November, calling it ‘World Day’.
- 10 years later – on 26th October 2005 – the World Day was adopted by the UN General Assembly as “the appropriate acknowledgement for victims of road traffic crashes and their families” and to me, this is where the message really hits home – when we start to realize that the memory of a loved one who fell victim to a road crash is a very personal experience. It personally takes me back to the day on 8th June 2001 when my eldest son tragically died in a car crash. Although it happened 17 years ago, the memory stays fresh for myself as well as for my family as we year after year commemorate his passing, not forgetting that he was one of 5 young teenagers, who suffered death in a road crash, while being in the prime of their teenage lives.
As I was researching the topic of World Remembrance Day and looking over the span of time that this day has been dedicated to focus on the millions who had lost their lives through road crashes, my eye also caught the very significant themes that were chosen to highlight the specific focuses over the years. The theme for every year was very significant as it related to one of the five Pillars of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action.
Without going all the way back in history, please allow me to just mention a few of the themes, all under the strategic banner of “From Global Remembrance to Global Action across the Decade”
- 2010 - Remembering lives lost and broken; do not forget the injured!
- 2011 - Let’s make 2011-2020 a Decade to remember!
- 2012 - Now is the time to learn from the past
- 2013 - Let’s have roads that are safe for all
- 2014 - Speed kills – design out speeding
- 2015 - It’s time to remember – say NO to road crime!
- 2016 - Vital post-crash actions: Medical Care, Investigation, Justice!
- 2017 - 2020 Target: reduce road fatalities AND serious injuries by 50%
- Current 2018 theme - “Roads have Stories”
The 2018 theme is linked to the 2nd pillar of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020: Safer Roads & Mobility
You will agree with me that roads & streets are more than connections from point A to point B. They tell stories, some of them tragic stories that are worth remembering. There are locations that we will just never be able to forget, even long after the flowers have faded and the crosses that we have planted, have lost its veneer.
- According to the World Health Organisation, some 90% of the 1.2m deaths caused by road crashes each year occur in developing countries. They also report that Road injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29, and the ninth leading cause of death overall. These are the facts, but to me in very simple terms, this can be described as a hidden epidemic as I am still of the opinion that there is an incredibly low level of road safety awareness amongst road users in our different communities.
- These are big numbers, and the issue goes beyond the immediate impact. Globally every year, 1 million children are either killed or seriously injured in road crashes, and miss out on an education. If a parent is injured or killed, children often have to drop out of school to look after them or find a way to earn money. And there is a strain on health systems that are already under pressure.
Today we also celebrate the good work done by all those employed in Emergency Services, those who are on call during the day and late at night, when things have gone wrong and you are called to come and assist those road users who have been flung out of the car during a crash, those who are trapped in a wreckage or to comfort those standing at the scene of a tragic accident. Your role should never be under estimated and I pray that you will continue to dedicate yourselves to this noble task of saving lives and safeguarding our road users. I know that the images of these scenes, burnt into your memory, will always be there to remind you of the countless heartbreaking accident scenes that you have witnessed and had been a part of.
And to those who today suffer the loss of a loved one that passed away, the impact of a road traffic crash, if we could turn back the clock, we would, but rest assured that we, the traffic fraternity as well as all emergency services today pledge ourselves anew to do all that we can to halt the ever-increasing number of gruesome crashes that happen on our roads every day of the year. And as we realize that nothing that we say or do today can really make it better, we want to stand next to you and say …. Roads tell different stories and “We Remember”
I thank you