A growing concern for public health
Road transportation provides obvious benefits to Georgia; it facilitates the movement of goods and people, creates employment, supports economic growth, and enhances access to education and health care. However, as in other rapidly developing low-middle income countries, road and transport safety is a growing public health concern. Issues such as air pollution, the high number of road traffic collisions and a rising dependency on fuel are taking an ever greater toll on society, as Georgian road users are unprepared for the unprecedented and rapid growth rate of new vehicles on the roads, increasing by around 10 per cent annually. While respiratory diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent due to environmentally un-friendly transport and a system which neglects more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling or public transport. If we consider the high levels of road traffic injury and air pollution in Georgia, it is clear that now is indeed the time for bold action. Neglect in this area will only hinder the country’s development and any benefits of improved road infrastructure will be outweighed by more severe health, social and economic problems.
Between 2010 and 2015, the number of road deaths in Georgia decreased by around 20 per cent, a huge achievement made possible by key interventions such as the introduction of compulsory seat belt use, road safety engineering improvements, new penalties for drink driving, the introduction road safety education in the state curriculum, and abolishing corruption amongst traffic police. However, in 2015 more than 9000 people were still injured on the road, with 20-30 per cent of hospital beds in Georgia currently occupied by road crash victims, and 602 people died as a result of road traffic collisions. Road crashes remain the biggest cause of death among 15-40 year olds with incidents in Georgia several times higher than the European average.
Time for action
EASST partner, the Partnership for Road Safety (PfRS), is calling for action to tackle this growing public health concern in Georgia through improved integration, partnership and strategy towards road safety management.
To facilitate access to additional sources of funding and ensure that road safety is not seen as a ‘silo’ issue, it should be integrated within broader transport, development, health and environmental agendas. For example, efforts to boost public transport should not only focus on reducing congestion but also its contribution to enhancing safety, improving mobility and building more sustainable cities.
The lack of any formal, coordinated response or lead agency is currently impeding road safety progress in Georgia. Partnership-working or the establishment of a new central institution can ensure a holistic, organised approach through which public sector stakeholders, NGOs and businesses can focus on delivering the same long-term results in terms of road safety management and help achieve the UN’s Global Goal of halving the number of road deaths and injuries by 2020.
Georgia desperately needs to adopt more modern road safety and transport management approaches, such as the internationally approved ‘safe systems’ approach, which is based on the principle that life and health should not be compromised by a need to travel. Since 2006, PfRS has been working with local and foreign partners to support the creation and implementation of such policies to improve urban mobility and help build safe and sustainable cities for the future.
For more information on the Partnership for Road Safety visit www.safedrive.ge