Linking the fifth pillar to the first in the UN decade of action

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Julie A King
Mark J King

The UN Decade of Action outlines five pillars of activity within a safe system framework to achieve the goal of slowing and then reversing the global growth in road traffic fatalities, especially in low-income and middle-income countries. The first four pillars - road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, and safer road users – have a strong focus on prevention of road traffic crashes and mitigation of energy exchange when a crash occurs. The fifth pillar – post-crash response – is far more specific, focusing only on crash victims in the event of a safe system failure. The victims appear to be relevant to the first four pillars only insofar as their numbers can be used to evaluate the success of road safety programs and identify the target groups and contributing factors. This paper argues that a better understanding of the lived experience of long term disability from traffic crashes has the potential to provide a feedback loop from the fifth pillar to the first. Research conducted in Thailand with male crash victims with spinal injury demonstrates that patterns of attribution and social and cultural factors have important implications for road safety management and for interventions aimed at influencing behaviour. In addition, the mobility constraints experienced by people with long term disability can point to systemic issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. The UN Decade of Action can benefit from a more thorough exploration of the experiences and circumstances of people with long term disability as the result of a road traffic crash. Rather than being evidence of the failure of the safe system, they can inform the development of more effective road safety management on low-income and middle-income countries.

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