MONROVIA, Montserrado – On Saturday, July 21 the Liberia National Police, in collaboration with the Monrovia City Corporation, drew attention to road safety issues in Liberia with a celebration of Road Safety Day.
The launch of the campaign began with a parade from Vamoma House in Sinkor through Tubman Boulevard to the Monrovia City Hall, under the theme “Safe Road, Safe Liberia.”
The various flyers distributed during the events warned against drunk driving and using phones while driving. They also encouraged the public to wear seatbelts and for motorcyclists to wear helmets.
Patrick Sudue, inspector general of police, said road safety is important in Liberia because “roads accidents are major causes of death in the country.” He said accident statistics gathered by the police over the past 12 years reveal that there have been 14,305 road accidents across the 15 counties.
Sudue said police records show that 1,747 people died in those accidents, with 9,181 persons injured.
“The high death rate in the country is as a result of road accidents,” he said, adding that “the figure is very alarming.”
Due to the high number of road accidents across the country, Sudue said the police wanted to initiate a weeklong road safety campaign to educate drivers on road safety regulations.
“Driver education on road safety regulations in the country is very poor,” he noted. According to Sudue, the police will educate students at secondary schools and universities as part of its campaign to ensure that the general public understands road safety regulations.
“Because of the high level of illiteracy in the country, the police will also be engaged with jingles on various radio stations across the country to educate drivers and pedestrians in order for them to adhere to road safety regulations,” Sudue said. “July 21 of each year will be celebrated as Road Safety Day in the country.”
Beginning Monday, July 23 the inspector general said police would start enforcing regulations requiring drivers to wear seatbelts and driving without using their mobile phones. However, Sudue said during Road Safety Week, offenders would get off with a warning.
“The police will not be issuing tickets to violators during the road safety week, but rather cautioning them,” he said. “When we feel that enough education has been done, the police will then start issuing tickets to violators.”
Additionally, Sudue said police stationed at checkpoints along the highway would look out for vehicles overloaded with goods.
Ingrid Wetterqvist, the Swedish ambassador to Liberia who served as co-launcher of the campaign, said road safety has many components, including the quality of the roads, driver behavior, the attitudes of pedestrians, and rules and regulations governing the quality and safety of vehicles.
While acknowledging that much more needs to be done in Liberia, Wetterqvist commended the police for addressing issues relating to the attitudes and behavior of drivers.
“It is a starting point because with attitudes and behavior, the LNP can do a lot of thing in the midst of lack of resources,” she said, adding that her own country has improved a lot over the years in terms of road safety. She cited the shift in driver behavior as the most important cause of that change.
Wetterqvist said she hoped the police would find suitable ambassadors for road safety to spread the campaign’s message to the youth.
Bobby Brown, a safety officer at the World Bank who was also present, said the primary responsibility of the police has to do with the roads but he noted that road safety rules and regulations were not implemented by the police.
Brown said many drivers were equipping their vehicles with gadgets that were contributing to accidents across the country. He named one of those gadgets as the bright LED lights attached to many vehicles in Liberia.
“There are instances of road safety violations where violators go unpunished,” Brown said. He said penalties would serve as a deterrent.
He urged the police to explore all possible avenues for ensuring that the road safety campaign becomes a success.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah