Vice President U Henry Van Thio, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), addressed the fifth meeting of the council held at the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
Union Ministers, Nay Pyi Taw Council Chairman, Deputy Ministers, and ministers of transport at the state/region level – who are the Vice-Chairman and members of the NRSC, subcommittee secretaries and heads of departments attended the meeting.
In his opening speech, the Vice President told attendees not to lose sight of the goal to reduce the death toll from traffic accidents by 50 per cent in 2020 from the toll in the base year of 2013. He also reminded them that the Road Safety Action Plan (2014-2020) was approaching its closing year and this meeting was to discuss what was left to be done in that remaining period.
He added that the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 showed that deaths and casualties from traffic accidents continued to increase around the world. He said it was still a long road till the global objectives were achieved. He urged everyone to strive for the NRSC’s 2020 target as the council’s works were important for the nation and the safety of its citizens.
Reflecting on past experiences
The NRSC’s management subcommittee was able to compile a comprehensive annual report for 2018 that would greatly help in reviewing the last three years of the NRSC, said the Vice President. He said the report would help the various subcommittees, sub-national RSCs, and government departments analyse their weaknesses, see which target level their state or region had reached, and which areas they needed to focus on so that they could plan future tasks accordingly.
Motorcycle accidents dangerously high
The Vice President said motorcycle accidents encompass 49 per cent of all traffic accidents in 2018 with 2,376 deaths and 12,985 casualties. He said the NRSC’s fourth meeting discussed how to reduce the high death rate from motorcycle accidents, which involved setting a standard for safety helmets. He highlighted how the management subcommittee held the Regional Workshop on Motorcycle Helmet and Minimum Safety Requirements for Cars, in cooperation with Suu Foundation, in Nay Pyi Taw during July 2018 to implement a Safety Helmet Standard that met the needs of Myanmar. He said they have now submitted a proposal to the National Standard Council to adopt UN Regulation 22 (Safety Helmet). The Vice President said motorcycle-related deaths would noticeably drop if Myanmar managed to adopt UN Regulation 22 and have everyone wear safety helmets with the E-mark. He said continued efforts needed to be made to educate the people on the benefit of wearing helmets that met specified standards, encourage systematic usage, and ensure every motorcyclist was able to wear one.
New database system, road safety
The Vice President said Myanmar successfully updated its Road Crash Database System, in line with ADB’s TA 8987 program, in 2018 and began using the new system at the start of 2019. He said NRSC needed accurate information to set effective procedures and policies and thus urged close cooperation between the relevant subcommittees, Myanmar Police Force, and the Road Transport Administration Department. The Vice President gave necessary instructions to the sub-national RSCs concerning the upcoming UN Global Road Safety Week in May. The biennial commemoration would take place from 6 to 12 May this year under the heading of ‘5th UN Global Road Safety Week’ with the motto: ‘Save Lives – #SpeakUp’. He said the NRSC should review its road safety procedures based on Global Road Safety Week to see which procedures should be increased and which should be amended.
The Vice President said traffic-related injuries and fatalities decreased a bit in 2018 following a ten-year climb, according to the 2018 annual report. He said that while the achievement for decreasing road accidents should be welcomed, unfortunately, the numbers surged noticeably in the first months of 2019. He said the NRSC should take serious consideration in addressing this issue.
Seatbelts, a lifesaving necessity
The Vice President also addressed the issue with highway express buses. He said the majority of passengers did not wear seatbelts, while those that wanted to were unable to as most buses did not have full functioning passenger seatbelts. He said some buses even put on seatbelts only during inspections at checkpoints but failed to wear them during the remainder of the journey. He said this has led to unnecessary injuries or even deaths when accidents occurred.
The Vice President said all stakeholders must work to ensure these express buses have proper functioning seatbelts and to exact suitable punishment on those that failed to do so. He said joint monitoring groups must perform checks not just in central terminals but also in the smaller terminals. He said awareness campaigns needed to be conducted with greater momentum and that swift action should be taken against those who failed to comply with set rules and standards.
Attendees begin discussions
Next, NRSC Vice Chairman Union Minister U Thant Sin Maung explained traffic-related deaths and casualties, the high death tolls from motorcycle-related accidents, ensuring standard quality for safety helmets, fulfilling the UN’s objectives, and reducing up to 50 per cent of the number of traffic-related deaths in 2013 by 2020.
NRSC Secretary U Zaw Min Oo, who is also Director-General of the Road Transport Administration Department (RTAD), then explained the contents of the council’s 2018 annual report. This was followed by the attendees discussing their relevant tasks and progress on implementing the decisions made at the council’s fourth meeting.
Deputy Director-General U Nay Lin and Chief Engineer Daw Phyu Phyu Win of RTAD then explained traffic-related accidents around the world, and the child safety seats and child restraint system respectively.
Afterwards, attendees discussed various topics on traffic-related accidents to which the Vice President replied and gave suggestions as necessary.
Greater road safety needed
The Vice President then delivered the closing speech. He first acknowledged the successful reduction of traffic-related accidents in 2018. He urged everyone to work hard to produce better results in 2019 and to fulfil the objectives of the 2020 Action Plan as much as possible.
He added that education campaigns should be reinforced, inspections should be increased, and that appropriate action needed to be taken to ensure proper usage of safety helmets by motorcyclists as those who did not wear them had a higher risk of death or injury. Similarly, failure to wear seatbelts resulted in 6,276 injuries and 1,214 deaths in 2018 and the annual report showed that those who did not wear seatbelts were twice as likely to get injured and 4 times more prone to die from an accident, said the Vice President. He said a procedure must be implemented to effectively inspect and enforce all drivers and passengers across the country to wear their seatbelts at all times.
Thingyan Festival and Road accidents
The Vice President said all necessary preparations should be finalized in anticipation of the traffic-related accidents and casualties for the approaching Thingyan Festival. He urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that this year’s Thingyan Festival would have the lowest traffic-related accidents. The Vice President said there were 4.01 million licensed cars when the National Road Safety Action Plan (2014-2020) was initiated but that number had risen to 7.29 million as of February 2019. He said an increase in operating vehicles and traffic accidents were naturally linked, and coupled with the fact that 98.02 per cent of accidents were caused by human error, the need was greater than ever for road safety and adherence to traffic rules. The Vice President said public cooperation was essential to successfully reduce traffic-related accidents and to that end there was a need to increase education campaigns to persuade and encourage the public. Only then would Myanmar be able to truly achieve the global vision of “Towards Zero Together” on road safety, said the Vice President. —MNA
(Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)