From 4 – 6 December 2013, UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) together with UNESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) invited delegates from UNECE and UNESCAP member states together with the UNECE Road Safety Forum Members to participate in an extraordinary session of the Working Party 1 (WP1) on road traffic safety to take place in Faridabad, near New Delhi. This session was hosted by Dr Rohit Baluja, Director of IRTE, the Indian Institute of Road Traffic Education. The Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) is a non-profit research based organisation formed in December 1991 by an interdisciplinary group composed of experts in education, from the automotive industry, architects, doctors, journalists, engineers, ex-militaries, police forces… with a single goal to make Indian roads safer for their users.
The event was supported by IRU (International Road Transport Union) and FIA Foundation. For more information on the documents of the meeting: http://www.unece.org/trans/roadsafe/wp12013.html
130 delegates from 37 countries participated in this event organised for the very first time in Asia since the creation of the UNECE WP1.
WP1 including government officials representing member states of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) were invited to take an active role during the inaugural Europe-Asia Road Safety Forum, the purpose being to ease the participation of Asian countries and facilitate the exchange of experience as far as road safety is concerned.
Mrs Luciana Iorio, Chairperson of the WP1 chaired this session: “I am particularly proud to be here today for the very first meeting of the Europe-Asia Road Safety Forum”.
Dr Rohit Baluja, Director of IRTE http://www.irte.com said: “It is an honour to formally welcome all participants and speakers for the first time today in India. I recently travelled to Germany, I could compare the way Indians living in Germany drive there and the way they drive in India. Nothing to compare, Indians in Germany respect traffic rules, which is not the case in India, this shows that this is not completely a question of culture. IRTE has been conducting much research on traffic management. A good traffic management system brings to better road safety.”
Other distinguished persons spoke in the opening session: Mr G.K. Pillai (former Union Home Secretary, Government of India, IRTE Advisor), Mr Vijay Chhibber (Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways), Mr Oscar Fernandes (Union Transport Minister, Government of India),
Dr Eva Molnar (Director, Transport Division, UNECE) and finally Mr Dong-Woo Ha (Director, Transport Division, UNESCAP).
Mr G.K. Pillai stressed the importance of the Road Safety Forum and regretted that there is not too much political support for road safety issues in his country, despite the high number of fatalities in India.
Mr Dong-Woo Ha, Director of the Transport Division (UNESCAP: http://www.irte.com/67th-session-working-party-1.html ) said:
Road safety in the Asian region is a real challenge. According to a WHO publication 777,000 persons died in 2010 in ESCAP region, this represents 60% of all road fatalities in the world. There is a link between the number of accidents and the quality of the road infrastructure. Improving road infrastructure will improve road safety. People travel not only across one country but beyond. We want to improve the road infrastructure in the Asia pacific region.
Mrs Eva Molnar, Director Transport Division (UNECE) said:
Since the creation of the UNECE Road Safety Forum this is the very first time that we have met in Asia, our Working Party on road traffic safety is one of the 17 working groups of the UNECE Transport Committee. This group deals with the Convention on road signs and signals and the Convention on road traffic signed in Vienna in 1968.
I particularly thank Mr Baluja, as well as his wife and daughter for their support and enthusiasm.
The US delegation, represented by the keynote speaker David L. Strickland, NHTSA Administrator is a constant member in this group.
Mr David L. Strickland, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (http://www.nhtsa.gov) and keynote speaker informed that NHTSA signed an MoU with IRTE this morning and said:
Even if road traffic has been growing in the US and the number of registered cars also, we succeeded in reducing road crashes by 25% within the last four years. Road crashes are the number 10 killer in the USA and the number 9 in India. 150,000 people have been saved thanks to seat belts over the last decade. Fatalities and injuries have been reduced by 86% by wearing seat belts. Air bags have been also very useful. 90% of all accidents are caused by human errors. Technology can support human behaviour.”
Mr Oscar Fernandes said: “There are 1.3 million fatalities in the world, three quarters of these fatalities occur in low income or emerging countries likes India. The big concern is in particular vulnerable users like motorbike users. He reminded that in addition to road infrastructure improvements, Education, Enforcement has to be also better implemented.
The rest of the session was dedicated to panel discussions, exchange of experience and best practice through presentations made by delegates mainly from Asian countries (Islamic Republic of Iran, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, etc…), as well as from most European countries, Russia, ...
Side events were also organised: an exhibition of photos taken by two artists who travelled by car about 17,000 km (10,600 miles) over 55 days last summer from Calais in France to Ridder in Kazakhstan following the E40, one of the main international roads conceived by the United Nations as part as a coordinated plan for the development of international road traffic in Europe after the Second World War.
The second side event was an exhibition by a Dutch company VIA http://www.via.nl working closely with IRTE on research projects and particularly on an application to upload on mobile phones that helps drivers to anticipate dangerous situations in a timely manner.
During the last day session under item 8 of the agenda, UIC and Indian Railways had the opportunity to deliver a presentation on the road/rail interface (level crossing) and safety related issues.
Mr Alok Kumar, Director of Safety at Indian Railways in Delhi gave an overview of level crossing safety on Indian Railways and informed the participants of their active participation in ILCAD.
Isabelle Fonverne, UIC, gave a presentation on the worldwide situation and informed the participants of an awareness campaign on level crossing safety coordinated by UIC named ILCAD in which India among 44 other countries were involved again in 2013: visit our website www.ilcad.org and the part dedicated to India:
This extraordinary session of WP1 in Delhi was again the opportunity for the railways to be part of work led by the road sector and to create new links with delegates with the same concerns and goals as the railways: promote Engineering solutions to improve safety, organise awareness campaigns to inform and Educate people to drive or cross in a safer way, and finally implement Enforcement measures where Education has failed or is not sufficient.
Finally Dr Eva Molnar reported on the creation of a group of experts on improving safety at level crossings at UNECE in Geneva – the kick off meeting will be held on 20 January 2014 in Geneva. Delegates from the 56 member states, members of UNECE, level crossing safety experts, UNECE working parties on road traffic safety and on railways have been invited to take part.
A separate interview was also organised at the initiative of IRTE with the National Highways Authority of India (road sector), the Indian Railways and UIC to discuss future collaboration between the road and rail sector in India to improve safety at level crossings in this huge country with the second largest railway network in Asia.