(Jan. 7, 2021) — Amid the pandemic, road safety policies and enforcement took a backseat and made way for more pressing concerns. But it’s time to prioritize them again. The COVID-19 pandemic made us rethink a lot about our priorities. Because of the genuine and dangerous threat to our health, we put first our health safety. We purchased (and even fought over) face masks and gloves. We started taking our vitamins religiously (or, in some cases, strictly). We stopped meeting our friends and families in person because we always have to think about the possibility of spreading the disease. Never mind the fact that we’re feeling lonely and in need of strong human connections.
The same went for our government’s decisions on policies and enforcement. Some needs and concerns were prioritized over others. The leaders of our countries and communities prioritize the strength and resilience of our healthcare workers and services. They thought about addressing the food and supply shortage. And this is why road safety became one of the things we were least concerned about.
Road Safety Taking a Backseat During the Pandemic
In the midst of the pandemic, the United States and many other countries became more lenient with the enforcement of road safety policies. They relaxed their regulation of driver hours–especially so if there are truck drivers tasked to deliver essentials such as medical supplies and other goods.
Many people have also argued that the stay-at-home order in the country and the world made it easier to lax about road safety. The mere fact that fewer people out on the road gave government officials and law enforcement officers the chance to focus on other pressing matters. And, ultimately, we can’t fault them for that. We understand that healthcare, education, and food supply need more funding than road safety enforcement.
Charlie Mock, a Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington, elaborated on the neglect of road safety enforcement. He said, “In general, it would seem that most of the public will be distracted from road safety messages and that perhaps some of what we road safety advocates might usually be doing might need to wait until COVID comes under control.”
The Threats of Neglecting Road Safety
In New South Wales, Australia, the New Sydney Herald reported that random breath testing of drivers had been reduced. This is to help the government save resources. It’s also a way to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. While this is completely understandable, it paved the way for higher risk of drunk drivers on the road. Before we know it, more people are calling car accident lawyers to help them get justice.
To remember the importance of road safety even during the pandemic, we have to remember the threats we face. There’s been an over 50 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities in the United States in the last ten years. The country faces about six million car crashes every year. And in the second quarter of 2020, there has been an increase of 30 percent in fatal car crashes. Cars running at high speeds are said to be the reason for this.
We also have to remember that no one is exempted from this. President-elect Joseph “Joe” Biden, Jr. lost his wife and one-year-old daughter in a fatal car crash in 1972.
Prioritizing Road Safety Again
The COVID-19 pandemic also made us consider that private vehicles are the safest mode of travel. It’s safer than riding the bus or train. In some cases, it’s even safer than walking on the street. And that’s because we’re reducing our interaction with other people. It’s a sensible measure of avoiding exposure to the coronavirus.
Yes, fewer people are going out. The work-from-home setup and the popularity of online selling helped with that. But when people do go out, they tend to use their cars. Because of this, it’s crucial to prioritize road safety again.
But it also helps that part of the President-elect’s platform is refurbishing the country’s public transportation system. The incoming Biden administration is pledging to provide every city with 100 thousand or more residents with public transportation options. These options are envisioned to have high quality and zero carbon emissions.
Now, we’re on the brink of a new year. 2021 is a great opportunity for us to start thinking about how we’ll recover from the dire effects of the pandemic. And we should include in our priority plan the importance of road safety. Now that people are becoming more mobile again, we should start rethinking our priorities. Yes, COVID-19 is still the most dangerous threat to our lives. But it doesn’t help if we stopped minding the other threats such as road accidents.