Regional cooperation and coordinated efforts to reach UN road safety targets were the main focus of last week’s Eastern Partnership Transport Panel Road Safety Workshop in Brussels, organised by the European Commission and World Bank.

Road safety in each of the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) is a significant public health issue. On average the number of road traffic deaths in the region is three times higher than in Western Europe, despite smaller vehicle fleets. As such, Alain Baron’s (Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) of the European Commission) opening remarks highlighted the importance of regional cooperation in reducing road traffic collisions and assured his support in developing a regional agenda to make roads safe.

EASST partner Poghos Shahinyan, Head of the Armenian National Road Safety Council, attended the workshop as part the Armenian delegation along with Lieutenant Colonel Kostantin Kostanyan, Chief of the Department of Traffic Management Control of Road Police and Gurgen Tadevosyan, Deputy Director General of the Armenian Roads  Directorate, Ministry of Transport and Communication.

The workshop was organised into four working groups covering Road Safety Management; Speed Management; Enforcement; and Technical Standards. Within each group, delegates came up with a set of recommendations (outlined below) which will be presented to ministers for review.

On addressing Road Safety Management, Armenia’s National Road Safety Action Plan was used as an example of best practice and was supported by panellists in terms of its regional significance. Poghos, who chaired the group, presented on the strategy’s success in reducing the number of fatalities in Armenia by 23 per cent in 2016, which in large part, comes through the work of the National Road Safety Council ensuring that road safety initiatives are targeted and that implementation happens across sectoral boundaries. The Council also ensures a high level of government involvement in road safety developments, which in the last year have focused on reducing speed (by installing speed cameras and cross cameras) and promoting seat belt wearing – the rate of which is now at almost 95 per cent.

A unanimous recommendation, and significant outcome for the workshop, was for the establishment of permanent regional working groups specifically addressing black spot, speed management and data standards. All of which are serious regional issues, and could be a significant step towards achieving the UN target to halve road deaths by 2020.

Working Group recommendations:

Road Safety Management, Coordination, Data and observatory

  • Each country should have a separate government body such as a national road safety council to take responsibility for road safety issues and implement an agreed action plan
  • A road safety fund should be established to support road safety activities within each council
  • A unified/standard database should be developed, which would give access to information for further evaluation by researchers and engineers

Speed management

  • Cities and local authorities should look into design and infrastructure solutions to managing speed such as automated traffic management systems – particularly in known vulnerable areas.
  • Legal mechanisms for enforcing speed limits should be strengthened
  • Road signs and signals should be standardized across the region

Enforcement

  • Drink driving legislation should be stricter with more authority given to the police to apply sanctions and penalties on offenders
  • Systems for ensuring penalties are paid efficiently and rapidly should be introduced

Technical standards, black spot management

  • Upgrade the design standards of roads and vehicles from a safety perspective including the development and review of manuals
  • Install an audit system and develop staff capacity through better education and training.
  • Establish a common approach for pedestrian crossings and black spot improvement.
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