Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Deadly virus of the roads

with one comment


This may not come as news to those who are more widely travelled than I am. And I do remember very clearly the sense that I had of being very unsafe indeed in various third world countries whenever I got into a road vehicle of any kind. But the scale of the problem – and the appalling casualty rate was a shock to me

The world’s most dangerous roads are in Africa. Britain has a fatality rate of one death per 10,000 vehicles; in Ethiopia and Uganda it tops 190. Traffic deaths are climbing most rapidly in Asia and Latin America, where rising prosperity fuels car sales and investment in roads.

It is not just the scale of the pandemic that should concern us. It is the indifference. And recall not so long ago when I commented on the world’s cheapest car and what that will do to Indian cities?

There is no better place to get a view of the traffic pandemic than Delhi.

This is a car crash capital, with more than 2,000 deaths a year. In the city, people compete for space with cars, trucks, auto-rickshaws, hand-pulled carts and buses. Meanwhile, out on the expressway, drivers of 4x4s and trucks can speed past barefoot women carrying firewood. Because the highway slices through communities, children put their lives at risk trying to cross the road.

And, like the author of the piece says, it is not as if sorting this out is rocket science. But

traffic death and injury is viewed as the inevitable collateral damage that comes with economic growth.

Aid donors are part of the problem. Most have yet to grasp the fact that an ethical transport policy has to be part of poverty reduction strategies.

Well I suppose that lets us out. After all Canada has pretty well backed away from being the aid donor it once was – and often “donations” turn out to be promises that are simply not delivered. Not that that makes us any different to all the other rich nations of the world. Billions – no – trillions for wars. No problem. Aid for the world’s poorest, no sorry, can’t afford that.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Road safety

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Ron Williams from Happy Frog said last night that countries like India and China are adopting North America’s consumption patterns but that we’re a bad model. (No kidding.) This is just as applicable. As I learned in Environmental Ethics, it was the Western world’s idea of poverty that actually made continents like Africa poor by Western standards. They were not poor before. While North American urbanites may easily say “Europe’s _____ won’t work here, this is North America,” they somehow think they can impose their own ideals on developing nations… and those in developing nations think our standards will work there. Ron’s worry was partly in the unsustainable future the Western consumption model subsists on, and it’s obvious by this tragic news that it’s already taking its toll in terms of transportation and safety. Very sad!

    Erika Rathje

    March 26, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: