International Transport Forum Calls for Measures to Improve Road Safety

Over 1,300 delegations from 74 countries gathered at the 2018 Summit of International Transport Forum, or ITF, in Leipzig, Germany, on Tuesday-Friday (25/05) to exchange insights on improving transportation safety and security, with an emphasis on road safety. (Photo courtesy of International Transport Forum)

By : Dhania Sarahtika | on 4:00 PM May 28, 2018
Category : News, Transportation

Leipzig. Over 1,300 delegations from 74 countries gathered at the 2018 Summit of International Transport Forum, or ITF, in Leipzig, Germany, on Tuesday-Friday (25/05) to exchange insights on improving transportation safety and security, with an emphasis on road safety.

This year’s summit started with the launch of an annual road safety report conducted by the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD). It found that between 2010-2016, there were 3.6 percent fewer road deaths in most of its member countries — which Indonesia is not part of. The UN's Sustainable Development Goals have targeted to halve road deaths by 2020.

"With 1.3 million victims who lose their lives on the world’s roads every year and tens of millions suffering injuries, road safety is a global health emergency," ITF secretary-general Young Tae Kim said during the report's launch.

Moreover, Prince Michael of Kent proposed a three-point plan in his keynote speech, namely "to establish a new UN road safety target to halve road deaths and serious injuries by 2030, to mobilize new resources to finance road injury prevention programs, and we need much stronger political commitment to road safety."

ITF, which featured more than 100 speakers in 40 sessions, examined and celebrated practices to ensure safety, but also questioned transport innovations.

For instance, the forum released a report called "Safer Roads with Automated Vehicles?" Those vehicles have been believed to be the solution to crashes because human error will be ruled out. The report argues that there is not much data to make such a claim. In addition to the fact that machinery error is possible, automated vehicles right now have back-up drivers during tests, which raises the question as to how far the cars can handle crises alone.

ITF economist and report author Philippe Crist said that people should maintain a "healthy level of skepticism on the ability of humans and machines to work together."

The forum also recognized progress in road safety.

New York City received the 2018 Transport Achievement Award for its implementation of "Vision Zero," a road safety program to eliminate traffic deaths. Since the program was introduced in 2014, traffic deaths in general were reduced by 28 percent and pedestrian fatalities by 45 percent. Last year, the city also recorded the lowest number of fatalities since 1910, plus only a single fatality occurred among children under 14 years old.

Another award, Young Researcher of the Year, went to British-Romanian researcher George Ursachi, who conducted a statistical analysis about the kinds of drivers involved in drink-driving crashes. He identified that 26 out of 66 types of people in the United Kingdom are most likely to drink and drive.

Indonesia Gains Insights on Road Safety

Fadrinsyah Anwar and Arif Anwar, who attended the event on behalf of Indonesia's Ministry of Transport research and development department, told reporters on Thursday that international forums are perfect opportunities to learn about ways to improve safety and security on Indonesia’s roads.

Arif said that air and marine traffic safety are governed under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) respectively, yet road safety is subject to respective countries.

"We have many road safety problems, especially due to the rising number of vehicles, rampant use of motorcycles, and rising number of accidents. The forum provides case studies and experiences of other countries in tackling the issue. We can learn from them," Fadrinsyah added.

Indonesia’s road death rate is at 28,000-30,000 each year, as reported by state-run news agency Antara. However, the World Health Organization stated in its Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013 that the real figure could reach 47,673.

Arif and Fadrinsyah said that most of the cases are related to a lax attitude to vehicle maintenance and ignorance to driving and riding safety.

Commenting on the issue, Saul Billingsley of FIA Foundation, a British foundation whose work also covers Southeast Asia, said that the Indonesian government should be consistent and ambitious in following the "safe system" approach, tackling traffic problems from multiple perspectives including infrastructure design.

Such a system is still not widely acknowledged, according to him, even among European governments.

"The problem is that the traditional approach has always been: blame the driver, blame the human error, ninety percent of crashes are caused by human error. It’s not true. Crashes are caused by system failures. Of course, human error has a part to play, but what we want to do is to design a system where people can make mistakes and walk away from them. In the context of say, a child learning to cross the road and a car, that means you have to reduce the speed to a level where if the car does hit the child, it’s not gonna kill him," FIA Foundation executive director Saul Billingsley told the Jakarta Globe.

The ministry officials also noted the innovations displayed and discussed in the forum, such as autonomous vehicles, which are clearly not ready to arrive in Indonesia. Arif said that given Indonesia’s "chaotic road traffic," autonomous vehicles will have a problem recording the driving behaviors before being part of the traffic for real.

"We need to consider if the technological advancements suit our environment," Arif said.

ITF now has 59 member states. Currently, Indonesia is just a visiting participant in the forum. Fadrinsyah said there are budgetary and bureaucratic considerations before deciding to be a member of an international forum, especially since transportation and infrastructure issues in Indonesia do not only concern the Ministry of Transport, but also the Public Works and Housing Ministry.

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