The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) is helping the local Police to expand their capacity to enforce speed limits and deal with road-related alcohol violations. This is part of steps being taken by the Government and its partners for a safer Samoa on the roads.
This week, Jonathon Passmore, W.H.O. Technical Lead for Violence and Injury Prevention, was in the country to conduct a two-day training with the Police on the issues.
“The ultimate objective is that we identify areas where we have strengthened enforcement, enforcements is what contributes to changing road use behavior,” Mr. Passmore said.
“Capacity is about learning, it’s an ongoing process, it’s something that never really stops.”
Last year, W.H.O. donated road safety enforcement equipment to the Police including breathalyzers and speed radars. The donation was to help the Police deal with the issue of drunk drivers and speeding, which were among the most common factors in road crashes.
“The incidents caused by speeding are quite excessive,” said Mr. Passmore. He also raised an interesting point about speed limits.
“One of the things that is specified in legislation is the speed limits for Samoa is specified in miles per hour. So the legislation for speed would benefit from revising those limits to kilometers per hour so that drivers can associate their behavior with what their speedometer are showing on their cars rather than showing something they are not familiar with.”
Then there is also the need to reduce speed.
“For example, the current maximum speed limit in the urban environment here in Apia is about 40 kilometers per hour which for an area of high pedestrian community is perhaps a bit high risk in terms of safety."
“A pedestrian being hit by a car with the speed of 30 miles an hour will suffer fatal injuries. It is through data collected that we have seen that speed racing is a particular problem but it also identifies some of the necessary actions and some solutions that can help us identify where there are gaps of legislation where reduction of limits speed is needed.”
The alcohol consumption limits was also raised as an issue.
“W.H.O.’s recommendation is that it doesn’t exceed 0.05 grams per deciliter and that recommendation is coming from the evidence of how alcohol influences crashing, the level of intoxication or impairment of a driver where the risk of crashing starts to increase dramatically."
“But Samoa’s legislation states that it doesn’t exceed above 0.08 grams per deciliter. And so compared to the current legislation for Samoa, we recommend a reduction in that level. Reduce tolerance in the volume of alcohol that is allowed.”
Mr. Passmore though accepts that change will take time and W.H.O. would always be willing to work with Samoa and the Police to promote road safety.
“We call it a workshop but in reality it’s very much a two way discussion where the Police are describing their challenges, their current operational procedures what are some of the barriers faced in their routine work. And how with our international experience can assist with the national context.”
The Officer in Charge of the Traffic Division, Superintendent Soloi Iosefa Tuimaunei welcomed the training.
“We are truly grateful to W.H.O. for their assistance and donations through equipment that will assist in carrying out our work. “It is my hope that with this training Traffic Officers would use to improve services carried out on the field.”