Road crashes decline dramatically
21 August 2020 | Accidents
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Namibia’s road crashes, injuries and deaths have experienced a dramatic decline compared to the same period over the previous two years.
Both the number of crashes and injuries between 1 January and 16 August 2020 declined by around 26% this year compared to the same period last year. The total number of deaths dropped by 27% compared to last year.
This year’s fatalities are 91 less than last year and 101 less than the same time in 2018.
Up to 16 August, 245 people died in crashes, of which 184 were men and 60 were women.
In 2019, during the same period, 336 people died in vehicle-related crashes and in 2018, 346 people died.
New statistics issued by the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVAF) show that between January and 16 August this year, 1 685 crashes were reported, compared to 2 279 in 2019, when injuries amounted to 3 646 compared to a total of 2 694 this year.
Collisions remain the top type of crash leading to injuries or deaths in Namibia. The total number of collisions declined by 11%, from 628 recorded in 2019 to 517 this year.
Pedestrian related car crashes total 413 so far this year. Over the same time last year, pedestrian-related crashes totalled 601 and 605 in 2018.
Leading cause of death
A recently published paper titled “An analysis of risk factors associated with road crash severities in Namibia”, warns that road accidents remain “a leading cause of death and disabilities in Namibia and other developing countries”.
The paper notes that based on recent trends, the World Health Organisation indicated that progress to realise the Sustainable Development Goal target that calls for a 50% reduction in the number of road traffic deaths by 2020, “remains far from sufficient” in developing countries.
The study recommends that “Namibian authorities undertake a comprehensive safety audit of their roadways to identify and institute countermeasures at crash-prone areas.”
The authors recommend work be done to ensure widespread and extensive road safety campaigns and that “this should be backed with increased and innovative strategies in the enforcement of traffic laws.”
Horst Haimstadt of the Private Sector Road Safety Forum (PSRSF) says the 12 radar speed cameras installed on the B1 and B2 national highways, which remain inactive since 2017, could significantly boost road safety. These cameras are part of a criminal investigation into more than N$12 million forked out by the Namibian police for the commissioning of a traffic contravention management system.
“Considering the potential impact of the cameras, we assume that more than 70% of all road crash injuries and fatalities are speed-related. Thus the cameras could have potentially have saved 1 355 lives since 2017," Haimstadt said.
Lack of vehicles
He added that another major problem is that traffic officers lack sufficient vehicles.
“Currently very few traffic vehicles are in operation,” he said, adding that those that are in use, are “in dubious roadworthy conditions”.
These comments were backed up by sources who declined to speak on the record, but said that in most regions, the "condition of traffic vehicles are shocking". The sources, who work closely with the Namibian traffic departments, said: "Most traffic vehicles have reached their life span."
They added that despite assistance from private and government-aided road safety authorities, little overall improvement in the management of traffic vehicles has taken place.
They underlined that very little resources are available to ensure traffic departments are adequately equipped with the necessary vehicles to patrol and enforce road safety on national roads and elsewhere.
Haimstadt said because of a lack of sufficient vehicles for traffic officers, issues like activating the 12 radar cameras are critical.
“The sad part is that if the money that was spent on the radar cameras would have been spent on high tech traffic vehicles, the vehicle problem would have been reduced. These officers cannot do their job efficiently and effectively due to a lack of basic equipment.”
The MVAF said a pilot test of speed calming cameras was conducted in 2015, and the project resulted in “speed reduction of 70%”.
The MVAF noted that if operational, “these cameras can contribute to the improvement of road safety in respect to speed management and enforcement thereof”.
The MVAF’s 2019 annual report stated that around 38% of vehicles travelling on national roads are likely not in compliance with speed limits.
The MVAF said these data points indicate that an upgrade of existing traffic monitoring systems and increased visibility of “intelligent speed law enforcement systems are good measures that can calm down the speed and lessen the risks of impact on crashes”.