Stopping the wave of traffic accidents in Peru: 249 cities to take action
"A bus carrying 54 tourists fell into an abyss of almost 100 meters deep. The accident left a toll of 37 dead, 8 missing and 9 wounded. The tragedy took place because of bad road conditions. " -Diario El Comercio, June 23, 2013
"17 people were injured when a public bus rolled over. The accident occurred in an area known for its dangerous hills, which have been the site of other fatal accidents" -Daily Republic, June 25, 2013
News of accidents as terrible and bloody as these is an everyday occurrence in Peru. According to The Global Status Report on State Road Safety 2013 released by the World Health Organization (WHO), Peru's roads are among the most dangerous in Latin America with one of the highest premature death rates of 15.9 per 100 inhabitants.
An EMBARQ Andino study (2007-2009) showed that in the city Arequipa, the cultural capital of Peru, there were a startling 320 traffic deaths and 1,081 people injured in over three years. Dr. Joel Collazos, Strategy and Traffic Safety head for Peru’s National Ministry of Health, says Arequipa is Peru's second highest region for the number of accidents, and among the cities with the highest number of deaths and serious injuries.
“In any car accident, there are three factors: the person, the vehicle and the infrastructure. In Peru, infrastructure is a really big part of the puzzle. The problem lies mainly in poor road signage and construction, as well as the lack of adequate road safety education,” Collazos explained.
Black spot identification can reduce accidents by 25%
When more than one accident occurs in the same location, that area is identified as a high risk “black spot.” These high-risk areas are the first place planners and policy makers need to tend to in order to make roads safer for everyone. "Identifying these black spots is a starting point for reviewing infrastructure, in order to determine how best create a safe space for every road user, whether driver, pedestrian or cyclist," said Collazos.
The Peruvian National Traffic Safety program (CONASET) has found that identifying and treating black spots reduces the number of accidents by an average of 25% in these high-risk areas. In Chile, where this has already been implemented, accidents were locally reduced by up to 70%. The Peruvian Ministry of Health, under the 2013 Incentive Plan, has set a goal to identify black spots and intervene through improved road design across the country. To assist with this goal, EMBARQ Andino is leading a course, guiding local governments and planners in how to create a safe and healthy environment.
"In order to make good decisions and take action, we need adequate information. Without good information, decision-making is limited, and it is difficult to have a positive impact" said Collazos, explaining that the plan to improve Peru’s road infrastructure is based on a substantial set of information, developed and discussed over the course of four different days in three cities—Arequipa, Lima, and Tarapoto.
EMBARQ Andino road safety workshops hosted over 500 representatives from 249 municipalities from June 13 to July 5 across Peru. The purpose of these workshops is to change and improve the role of road infrastructure. Rather than causing or contributing to the severity of accidents, Peru’s road infrastructure can help to protect its users. "Traffic accidents will continue to happen unless we establish a culture of road safety,” said Collazos. If we can reduce the severity of accidents through adequate infrastructure, then traffic accidents could lead to property damage, rather than injury or loss of life. The best way to do this is to identify black spots.”
"Traffic accidents will continue to happen unless we establish a culture of road safety”
-Dr. Joel Collazos, Strategy and Traffic Safety head for Peru’s National Ministry of Health
“During one of the workshop sessions, a representative of Catacaos, in the province of Piura, approached me at the end of the workshop with a hand-drawn map showing a black spot in his community. He explained to me what he intended to do to fix the point, and wanted to know if I had any recommendations," recounted Solomon Chavez, EMBARQ Andino’s program coordinator who helped to lead the workshop. He added, "It is satisfying to see the participants learn new concepts and get excited to reduce the number of traffic accidents. Training like this is important to us. The belief of everyone at EMBARQ Andino is that solutions and alternatives to black spots exist, and that these solutions can be simple, inexpensive and have an immediate impact on traffic safety.”
Drawing on international experience
One of the aims of these workshops is to influence municipalities and encourage them to work to identify and improve black spots through low-cost interventions. During the workshop, examples were given of national and international cases, as well as education about current regulations and best practices for improving road design, traffic safety education, and the development of public policies which will encourage traffic safety work to continue.
“Solutions and alternatives to black spots exist . . . these solutions can be simple, inexpensive and have an immediate impact on traffic safety”
–Solomon Chavez, EMBARQ Andino Project Coordinator
For now, representatives of the National Road Safety Council have accepted the challenge to continue this work by proposing a goal for the 2014 Incentive Plan, on "Implementation of corrective measures for black spots."
The reduction of injuries and deaths from traffic accidents work spans sectors and departments, requiring a systematic approach. Real, impactful changes require an ongoing effort, involving the monitoring of data and the participation of all stakeholders. Most important of all, it requires commitment and action.
To learn more about EMBARQ’s Health & Road Safety work, download “Our Approach to Health & Road Safety”.