Road casualties is a major burden to the society worldwide. According to WHO statistics, road casualties in Africa are by far proportionally higher than in any other region of the world. However, do we know the real number of road fatalities and injuries in Africa? Do we know the real specific road safety problems in the various areas of Africa? Do we really know the necessary countermeasures and how to implement them with the current potential of the African society and Authorities?
Unfortunately, today, the answer to all these questions is rather not and the African Road Safety Observatory is a key road safety management tool, which will allow for more serious work in addressing all these key issues. We can summarise six main reasons for the need of the African Road Safety Observatory: a) for supporting decision making, b) for monitoring safety performance, c) for monitoring measures effectiveness, d) for collecting the necessary data, e) for developing closer cooperation between African countries, f) for following the example of other Regions.
Supporting decision making. The main reason for the development of the African Road Safety Observatory is the need for a management tool to supporting road safety decision making at Continent, national and local levels. Such a central structure will allow better identifying road safety problems and solutions and providing assistance in implementing customised solutions, creating also a healthy competition between countries for better road safety performances.
Monitoring safety performance. If only we know the real size and characteristics of the road accident problem in Africa, we can seriously work to improve road safety. Knowing the real number of road casualties, their characteristics (types of road users, roads and vehicles) and the related trends over time is the fundamental knowledge before starting identifying and implementing any solutions.
Monitoring measures effectiveness. Not negligible investments on the transportation system and on road safety in particular are taking place lately in Africa without however having any clear picture on the effectiveness of these investments. Have they addressed the problems? Have they led to road casualties reductions? How many lives were saved? And most importantly, are we sure than they did not create more safety problems? The African Road Safety Observatory is a unique opportunity to introduce systematic impact assessment of all transport and road safety interventions, through common methodologies and continuous and wide publication of the related assessment results.
Collecting the necessary data. The operation of the African Road Safety Observatory is also a unique opportunity to collect all road safety data, which are necessary to identify problems and solutions and support the implementation of the appropriate policies, programmes and measures. Through data collection methodologies common for all African countries we can collect missing data on road casualties, exposure (vehicle/person kilometres per user and road type) and performance indicators (speeding, drink & drive, mobile phone use, seat belt and helmet use, quality of roads, vehicles and post-accident care systems), but also data on the measures degree of implementation and effectiveness.
Developing closer cooperation between African countries. The development and operation of the African Road Safety Observatory is also a unique opportunity for closer cooperation between the different countries and regions of Africa in the field of road safety. Exchange of knowledge on road safety problems and solutions and on successful and unsuccessful practices might facilitate the definition of more targeted policies and the implementation of highly cost efficient programmes and measures. Particular benefits might arise from the exchange of knowledge on the appropriate administrative structures and the necessary capacity building practices among the various road safety stakeholders present in each country. The development of a solid network of national road safety experts in Africa is a key component and major added value of a highly performing African Road Safety Observatory.
Following the example of other Regions. The operation of Road Safety Observatories in other Regions of the world (Europe – ERSO, Latin America-OISEVI) has been proved so far highly beneficial for improving road safety performance in these Regions, and the same should be expected in Africa. In fact, the more developed is the road safety decision support culture in a country or in a Region the higher is the road safety performance in this country or Region. Furthermore, the African Road Safety Observatory can benefit a lot from the existing structure, contents and operation of the other Observatories in the world.
In conclusion, the African Road Safety Observatory has a great potential to upgrade significantly road safety in Africa in the mid-term, in terms of monitoring performances, assisting capacity building and supporting decision support for highly efficient road safety policies, programmes and measures throughout Africa. Intensive cooperation between the various National Authorities, International Organisations and key experts in the field is necessary at all stages of development, operation and continuous enhancement of the African Road Safety Observatory.
The African Road Safety Observatory is currently one of the very few most cost efficient interventions for the improvement of road safety in Africa, with very significant potential for road casualty reduction in Africa and the African stakeholders and the international road safety community should seriously engage themselves in developing and operating the appropriate Road Safety Observatory for Africa.