The deadly road crashes. Thinking solutions to save lives

Three road fatalities in a single weekend should be a cause for concern for everyone – not just the families of the deceased.

The weekend of tragedy started last Friday when a white Hyundai Getz drove into a round concrete traffic barrier at Vailoa early morning and burst into flames, leaving one man critically injured and another losing his life.

Twenty-four hours later, a man in Savai’i died when his car crashed at Asaga. On the same day (Saturday), another crash at Leulumoega in the afternoon involving two vehicles left one dead, and the other passengers needing medical attention.

Police say two of the three crashes involved alcohol, while their investigations into the third one at Leulumoega is continuing.

To put the impact of last weekend’s deadly road toll in perspective, the late Joseph Une who died in the Vailoa crash was a promising 21-year-old rugby union player who made Samoa’s U23 squad, according to Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.). 

While late Toso Jnr Romney Taua, who died last Saturday morning in Savai’i, was a seafarer who was scheduled to return to the sea on December 28 on the Liberia-flagged container vessel MSC Eloane. 

The deceased men leave behind grieving families, children who will grow up without knowing their fathers, and the absence of a breadwinner at home. There is no doubt life will not be the same for the affected families. 

It has to be said that the death toll from drunk-driving could increase, if measures are not put in place soon by the relevant authorities to address it. 

Therefore, we must applaud Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi for being open on the issue in a recent statement issued by the S.R.U.

“While I do not want to take away from the family’s grief at this time, I believe it would be amiss for the leaders of this sporting body not to take this opportunity to again reiterate to all players, at all levels, the importance of being vigilant in looking after their safety at all times,” Tuilaepa said.

The enforcement of Samoa’s traffic regulations falls under the remit of the Ministry of Police. But with the increasing workload of the Police, the onus is also on every member of the public to follow the law and to think safety while on the road. 

That is, making a personal choice to avoid the consumption of alcohol if you are driving, or getting someone else to drive if you are intoxicated, can often be the difference in a life and death situation.

But the increasing role of alcohol in traffic incidents in Samoa – resulting in death and injuries – cannot continue to be downplayed, if the two out of the three fatalities last weekend in Upolu are any indication. The crashes are evidence alcohol consumption is already having a big impact on motorists in Samoa, and statistics provided by the Ministry of Police could point to an increasing trend in recent years.

The trend, if backed by official statistics, could confirm World Health Organisation (WHO) findings that drinking and driving is a main cause of road crashes globally. 

“In high-income countries about 20% of fatally injured drivers have excess alcohol in their blood, while in some low- and middle-income countries these figures may be up to 69%,” states the WHO as a part of the UN Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC).

As a way forward, Samoa Government entities should consider initiating an independent local study into motorists’ alcohol consumption, and the link with increased road crashes in the country. The findings from the local independent study should influence policy formulation and intervention, with a view to providing long-term solutions to reduce the number of fatalities on roads in Samoa.

Thanks to the work of the Samoa Law Reform Commission, the link between alcohol and drugs and violent crime in Samoa has already been established. The Commission’s report was compiled in response to a request from the Attorney General’s Office in 2014, to review laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol.

The country needs another study, and this time into alcohol consumption and the increasing road crashes in Samoa. If the study and its subsequent policy and legislative reforms – if it ever gets to that stage – can save a life than the country is definitely on the right track. 

Have a lovely Friday Samoa and God bless. 

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