My return trip from Morocco to the United States last Friday began with an hour and a half road trip from my hotel in Rabat to the airport in Casablanca. Once outside of the old city of Rabat the trip it was an easy drive on a modern highway all the way to the airport.
I have family in France and I was struck by how similar the roads were to those I am accustomed to in the South of France: they use the same signs, albeit with arabic writing, the same “Aires de Repos” and restaurants, the same “peage” booths and the same speed limits. A photograph of these road might easily be mistaken for the highway between Aix and Nice, including the high concentration of brand new Renaults and Citroens on the roads.
Except of course for the enormous differences in the way in which these roads are used: nobody respects the speed limits, cars weave insanely in and out of the lanes, it is common practice to drive with the lane markers down the middle of the car, cars drive inches apart from one another, and I even witnessed dozens of pedestrians, including a woman with a child on her back, making sprints to try to cross the road. My driver talked incessantly on his cell phone while modern arabic music blasted on the radio. At one point I let out a loud “Monsieur!!” as my driver attempted to pass another car in a single merge lane. No…this was not a leisurely drive across the South of France….this was definitely road travel in a developing country.
Last week the CDC distributed a list of the top 10 achievements in global public health. Listed down near the bottom was: Increased Awareness and Response for Improving Global Road Safety. I could not agree more with this being on the list, although I probably would have placed it a bit higher on the list. Some of the evidence they provide to justify this item was:
…From 2001 to 2009, the number of annual traffic-related deaths in the European Union declined 36%, from 55,700 to 34,900. The largest declines in the traffic-related mortality rates from 2000 to 2009 were observed in Spain and Portugal; rates decreased 59.2% in Spain, from 14.5 deaths per 100,000 population to 5.9, and 47% in Portugal, from 12.9 deaths per 100,000 to 6.8.
I still find it remarkable that road traffic safety and injury control continues to receive so little attention from health ministries around the world, this despite the fact that it kills over a million people each and every year, seriously injures millions more, and is completely visible to just about everyone — it was a Ministry of Health driver from Morocco in a Ministry of Health car who drove me to the airport!
The road traffic safety improvements mentioned above, plus those that have also occurred in France, were due to concerted effort from government to reduce the burden of disease from this condition – sometimes just by enforcing road traffic rules that were already on the books. Let these international experiences should be a lesson to others – road traffic injuries can be addressed through effective public health policies.Share on Facebook