THE EDITOR: Arrive Alive acknowledges the letter, “Six questions for Arrive Alive,” to the editor on the subject of road safety and light poles. We agree that we must be accountable for our own safety as we traverse our roadways and stress on personal responsibility as road users.
Arrive Alive maintains its position that utility poles are poorly positioned on some of our main roads and highways. Furthermore, if they are not properly relocated or shielded, lives will continue to be lost on our roads as a direct result.
Michael G Dreznes, the executive vice president of the International Road Federation (IRF), describes it very well:
“While these crashes will never go away, it is possible to design roads to use today’s state-of-the-art technologies or concepts to make these impacts less severe. In effect, this technology is forgiving motorists when they make a mistake, and not making the motorist pay for his or her mistake with capital punishment by giving up his or her life. When this is accomplished, the roads become known as forgiving roads.”
There are several bodies such as the IRF and the Conference of European Directors of Roads that have developed standards and guidelines for making roadways more forgiving. These guidelines have been adopted in several countries, resulting in fewer fatal collisions in these nations.
The standard recognised by such bodies indicate that utility poles must be placed at a safe distance from travel lanes. For example, the desirable distance for straight high-trafficked roads with 100 km/h zones is a minimum of nine metres.
Factors that affect the placement of poles include whether the area is rural or urban, the functionality of the highway, the design speed and the average daily traffic that will use the roadway.
In situations where the hazard cannot be removed, interventions can be implemented to reduce the risk of the impact from a crash being fatal. Breakaway supports for utility poles and road signs, crash cushions and guard rails when properly installed and maintained greatly reduce the risk of death in the event of a collision.
As a member of the UN/WHO Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, Arrive Alive supports the Five Pillars of Road Safety as per section 4.2 which speaks of education with the development of comprehensive programmes to improve road user behaviour.
The UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015 included road safety under two of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By 2020, the goal is to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents and by 2030 provide access to safe and sustainable transport systems and improve road safety,
Arrive Alive acknowledges that reinforcing the principles of safe road usage is key to preventing road traffic collisions. We will continue to educate the public on safe road user behaviour. However, we will also continue to advocate for stakeholders like the Ministry of Works and Transport and the public utility companies to work together closely to make our roads “more forgiving.”