Road safety around schools: an ‘urgent’ priority for Azerbaijan
High level stakeholders have met in Baku to discuss the urgent need to prioritise road safety around schools in Azerbaijan. The meeting was organised by our EASST partners, the National Automobile Club of Azerbaijan (AMAK), as part of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) Annual General Assembly being hosted in Baku this week.
The meeting provided a unique opportunity for government stakeholders to meet with both the Director of the FIA Foundation, Saul Billingsley, and FIA Head of Road Safety & Global Advocacy, Luca Pascotto, to learn from international experiences and explore new opportunities and set new targets aimed at improving road safety around schools in Azerbaijan.
EASST partner Tatiana Mihailova of the Automobile Club of Moldova (ACM) shared a regional perspective of how road safety around school zones can be improved, highlighting how this has been achieved in Moldova through amendments to the National Road Regulations which now mandates 30km/h as the default speed limit around schools and other areas where vulnerable road users and traffic mix.
With Azerbaijan’s ‘State Program on Road Safety 2019-2023’ due for review in the coming months, the meeting also provided a timely opportunity to discuss new ways forward and set targets for the next five years.
Despite investments in road infrastructure and improved enforcement of traffic rules, road fatalities in Azerbaijan remain much higher than in most European countries. In 2019, 821 people died as a result of a road traffic collision in Azerbaijan and many more were injured. According to a World Bank report published last year, road traffic crashes have a socio-economic cost of around $ 807 million, which is the equivalent of 2.0% GDP. Child pedestrians are amongst the most vulnerable of all road users. Ensuring that they have a safe and healthy journey to and from school should be an urgent priority for the new State Program on Road Safety.
AMAK President, Vusal Rajabli, presented impressive results of their pilot school zone transformations in Sumgayit City. Infrastructure upgrades implemented over the past two years at School No. 2 and School No. 12 have shown reduced speeds and improved road safety as well as being warmly welcomed by the local community.*
The meeting demonstrated a great deal of local interest and momentum in improving school zone road safety. The State Road Police were very supportive, offering their cooperation and championing a multi-sector approach to tackling road risk around schools. This was echoed by Tarlan Safarov, Head of Traffic Management Department of the Azerbaijan Ground Transport Agency, who shared their experiences of trialing low speed schools zones in Baku and creating more pedestrian zones in the city centre. Over the next year, AMAK will be using Star Rating for Schools to showcase further the impact that low-cost infrastructure can have on reducing road risk as they continue to advocate for 30km/h speed limits in school zones to be rolled out across the country.
*The pilot transformation at School no. 2 in Sumgayit was implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in partnership with EASST, the Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI), and the National Automobile Club of Azerbaijan (AMAK). It was funded by UK Aid through the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility. The infrastructure work at School no. 12 was funded by the Safer Roads Foundation and implemented by AMAK.