Turkish prime minister Erdoğan launches Decade of Action for Road Safety in Turkey
The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 has been launched in more than 100 countries so far, with one goal: save five million lives from traffic deaths globally by 2020. In translating the Global Plan for the Decade into national action plans, many countries have taken measures to improve road safety, such as developing national road safety plans; introducing new laws; or increasing enforcement of existing legislation.
At a ceremony on April 3rd in Istanbul, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially launched the country’s national program for the Decade of Action of Road Safety. Together with Turkey’s own Road Safety Platform, which has been tasked with implementing the Road Safety Plan, the two initiatives aim to cut the number of traffic-related fatalities on Turkey’s roads in half, and stress the importance of traffic law enforcement and driver behavior modification.
According to Minister of Health Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, traffic crashes cost his country around 25 billion TL (USD$14 billion) each year. “This is a huge amount coming out of our own pockets,” asserts EMBARQ Turkey director, Arzu Tekir, “and we must think how we could have better used that money.” Yet even more critical than the price tag, she continued, are the 10,000 casualties of traffic accidents on Turkey’s roads every year. To help mitigate the crisis, Tekir explained, “road safety inspections and audits must be taken into account as standard procedures to save lives and financial resources.” She added:
“Nothing, can replace the loss of a loved one with whom you will not be able share good memories, laugh, and enjoy life. Traffic safety regulations are vital for saving lives. EMBARQ Turkey encourages road safety audits at the transportation-design phase, to predict the areas of risk before construction, as well as road safety inspections carried out following implementation, in order to identify which areas need improvement.”
Prime Minister Erdoğan observed that the number of vehicles on Turkish roads has risen from 8.6 million to 17.1 million in the past ten years alone. “Man has become a prisoner of self-produced vehicles,” observed Prime Minister Erdoğan, adding that, “cities are for people but now are designed for vehicles.” However, he added that Turkey would be rapidly expanding and connecting its railway network; placing stricter regulations on older vehicles, which pose road safety and air quality risks; and focusing more attention on pedestrian safety. “Some drivers,” he added, “pull the handbrake rather than the patience break at the first sight of trouble.“ Erdoğan praised the World Health Organization and its partners for their commitment to the initiative, expressing optimism and confidence in curing the traffic epidemic plaguing Turkey and other cities around the world.
There were around 800 people in attendance, including government ministers, United Nations representatives, organizations, and private companies. EMBARQ Turkey Director, Arzu Tekir was in attendance, representing the organization and its commitment to road safety in Turkey. “I was honored to be a part of this important event,” reflects Tekir, who called the commitments made by the Prime Minister and ministry heads, “a tipping point for our country.”