Civil society group proposes creation of new government agency to improve traffic

A group of organizations led by Cruzada Vial, a Lima-based civil society association, has proposed the creation of an independent government agency to oversee the improvement of Peru’s transportation system, state news agency Andina reported.

Peru’s ombudsman – the Defensoria del Pueblo – reported last March that there were more than 86,000 traffic accidents in 2009 killing 3,243 people and injuring more than 48,000 others.

According to the civil society groups, these accidents, as well as other transportation problems such as the time spent in sitting in traffic, are costing Peru $6 billion annually.

Cruzada Vial president, Adrián Revilla, said traffic-related costs could jump to $8 billion in 10 years, which would equal approximately 5 percent of the country’s GDP.

“If we talk about the possibility of losing 5% GDP annually, the transfer from the State of $25 million soles ($8.8 million) for this new organization would not be very much considering the scale of the problem,” Revilla said.

“It can not be that Peru has 10 times less vehicles than Great Britain and 10 times more deaths from traffic accidents than that country.”

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  1. R. Rodriguez says:

    Is spending 25 million soles to create an independent government agency really necessary? It’s easy to agree that there is a problem with traffic here and the tragedy associated with it. The root causes seem fairly obvious and it seems that there is little to be gained, except by those that would receive 25 million soles, in misdirecting this money toward providing recommendations as to how our traffic problems might be remedied.

    There seems to be educational, legal, enforcement, economical, infrastructure, technological and cultural issues that must be dealt with. Let me take these in that order.

    Education: The government could reduce accidents by launching a educational media campaign aimed toward teaching courtesy while driving. Of course this would not happen overnight but a sustained campaign, using proven techniques would gradually obtain effect. Additional money should be spent on driver training with courses specially designed for drivers of mass transit. No one should be allowed to buy a drivers license.

    Legal: Traffic laws should be reviewed, revised and added where inadequate with a keen eye on the data. Where the data shows the law’s ineffectiveness or it is missing with respect to problems the data shows, the law should be corrected then communicated and enforced. Some things that contribute to many accidents are; turning from an inside lane, tailgating, excessive speed, cutting-off and poorly maintained vehicles – driving without proper lighting or bald tires for example. Vehicle inspections should be expanded and enforced.

    Enforcement: There are not enough cops on the street enforcing traffic laws. Additional law enforcement does not have to be intrusive if its purpose is clearly defined; traffic law enforcement. There should be more police assigned to traffic instead of standing in front of banks and other buildings where private security would be an equally effective deterrent. There should already be enough data to determine where they are needed based upon where the most trouble has been. Put the police in those areas and have them ticket offenders. Granted this is easier said than done as the problem of corruption must also be dealt with and mitigated or the effectiveness will be reduced in proportion to the amount of bribes solicited.

    Economical: Many vehicles are in a poor mechanical state. This not only applies to cars but to many, many buses and taxis as well. While better inspection laws will help correct some of the problem it will not correct all of them. Many people just do not have enough money to properly maintain their automobiles. On the other hand, there may be an attitude of running cars into the ground thinking money is being saved to spend on other things, like food. The benefits of a properly maintained vehicle are numerous and should be included into the educational part of the program. Then there are the bus and taxi companies and independent owners. Tighter regulation is in order to force these companies/owner/operators to properly maintain their vehicles. Fines should be levied for non-compliance and registrations revoked if necessary.

    Infrastructure: Everyday one can see improvements in road conditions in certain parts of Lima while other parts of the city are full of potholes and are downright dangerous. Even in seemingly nice areas one can find crater sized holes that can wreak serious damage. Then there are streets such as Tomas Marsano that have had the same huge holes for more than six months. (While in a Tico one day about 4 months ago this hole virtually swallowed the left-front tire and caused a blowout.) That hole is there right now and there are many more like it. The country could do a much better job of repairing streets instead of ignoring them. Certainly this could be done in the major cities. How much does a little asphalt cost? But they not only have to fill the holes, they have to fill them correctly so the repairs will last longer.

    Technological: Some of this is being done in certain parts of the city. Intelligent traffic lights, cameras (for traffic flow observation and red light enforcement) and so forth. All uses of traffic flow technology should be studied and applied where feasible.

    Cultural: Maybe it’s me but it seems that almost everyone here that gets behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle becomes Mr./Ms. Hyde. There is such a lack of common courtesy it confounds me. How can such seemingly nice people off the road metamorphose into such self-centered halfwits when driving? Now granted, there are “some” nice folks on the road but let’s be realistic, there aren’t many. People will actually speed-up to force another car, or even a pedestrian, out of their way and exert some self perceived right they have to that particular piece of road. They will cut you off, box you in, squeeze you out and curse at you even if it is their fault all the while blowing the incessant horn. Buses race each other to the peril of anything on the road doing so on bald tires, bad brakes, smokey exhaust and sleepy drivers. (I’ve seen them nodding off while driving or while waiting at stop lights.) Both cars, taxis and buses pass on curves and blind hills and it seems all take so many unnecessary risks that it defies logic and makes one question their intelligence. The educational campaign should take aim at this type of behavior and reeducate current drivers while simultaneously providing proper education to those seeking to obtain their licenses.

    How to pay for all of this? There is no other way than taxes and fees and both should be applied to every vehicle on the road in a manner sufficient to correct the problems. This can be from fuel surcharges, insurance surcharges or anything related to the transportation industry. This may cause slight increases in the cost of some consumer goods but not in huge proportions. Window stickers indicating compliance should be utilized to aid with enforcement.

    Until the government places proper emphasis on each of these areas – and they should do these common sense things first – they should not allocate $8.8 million dollars to any agency to review and report the obvious.

    R. Rodriguez

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