The Article Entitled “The Road Story” Addressed By Süleyman Soylu, Minister Of Interior On The Occasion Of The Road Safety Week
Traffic is a field where reuniting, aspirations, commerce and production – i.e. every indication of human-being and of human-being’s living through- manifests itself. When the roads are crowded, then there is the busy agenda, so are works and the life is lively; but when the roads are secluded, all are stagnant.
Standing at the core of our lives, the traffic is as much a sign of life as it is a global problem that - unfortunately - threatens human’s life in today's world. Traffic accidents, described as a health problem by the World Health Organization that we frequently hear about these days, cause an average of 1 million 350 thousand people to die each year around the world and approximately 50 million people to get injured. Traffic accidents are ranked 8th among the causes of death on a global scale and 1th among the causes of death in the 5-29 age range. And oddly enough, rising technology does not reduce this security risk; on the contrary, the increased speed of vehicles and the distracting effect of some innovations, such as mobile phones, are whipping up this threat.
Unfortunately, the fact that our country has a bad record with traffic accidents for many years and we have experienced deep sorrow and suffered more lives than terrorism is self- explanatory. The economic cost of traffic accidents in 2019 alone to our country is calculated as 55.5 billion TL. Various governments have exerted efforts to reduce traffic accidents from past to present and many measures have been implemented, which have highlighted positive results at different scales. However, rather than these, just like with many other topics of security, our perspective towards the traffic issue has gained a strategic dimension after July 15, which is - in a way- a security milestone of our country.
“The Road Traffic Safety Strategy and Action Plan”, which was prepared in 2011 under the leadership and guidance of H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey, aiming to reduce the life losses in traffic accidents by 50% as a priority target, has been the first step in a new approach towards the solution of this problem in our country. The Traffic Safety Implementation Policy Document published in 2017 was an up-to-date road map describing new concrete steps, new measures and strategies to be taken within this Plan. This document sets forth to schedule the measures to be taken in the short, medium and long term and highlights the steps to reduce today's accidents and accurately establish future's driver and pedestrian behaviour. Within this context, we have identified a strategy we have developed based on four pillars which can be summarized as follows: “supervision, social awareness, capacity building and education”.
The Sense Of Supervision Has Been Amended
Under the supervision leg, we have aimed not only to impose penalties and increase the number of supervisions, but also to change the mentality of supervision. We planned to reduce penalties imposed based on the license plate and rather instead increase face-to-face inspections, and we implemented so. In this way, we've raised the driver's awareness. Instead of imposing penalties, we focused on warning in the foreground. Especially during the supervision of long distance drivers, we intended to get the driver off the vehicle, and thus, to eliminate the distraction. For the same purpose, we have developed new forms of control, such as blocking the entire flow of road and directing it to a resting place. In addition, we planned our inspections accordingly through analyzing the days and times where accidents were densely observed. The number of traffic crew and staff have been doubled between 18.00-20.00 on Friday, Saturday, Monday and other days, where accidents occurred intensely and therefore, the visibility of the our teams increased. When we consider the year 2011 as 100 as a base point in the rate of supervision amount, our 2016 supervision figure has been 132. This figure has been 220 at of the end of 2019.
Besides, we put an end to trap radar/repeated radar applications in line with our policy of raising awareness within the supervision. Instead of this, we switched to the average speed detection system, considered to be a speed corridor between HGS (Fast-Pass System)/OGS (Auto-Pass System) and toll booths on the 2,155 km motorway network, thus demonstrating an efficient approach which aims to reduce the average speed across the highway, rather than instant braking. Between 2018-2019, we yielded a 20.3% decrease in the number of accidents and a 12% decrease in the number of fatal accidents on the highways, where this system was implemented.
Increasing visibility and awareness was our new priority in inspections, and we have also developed new methods for this. An instance to this innovation is our application of Mock-up/Model Traffic Team Vehicles, over which we can sometimes observe pleasant sceneries, as well as good jokes and humorous scenes on social media. As a matter of fact, this application met our expectations. In comparison with 2018, an 11.5% decrease was achieved in the number of accidents in areas within a 3 km radius of their locations and a 17.5% decrease in the number of fatal accidents; as well as a 26.44 % decrease in the number of casualties in such accidents in 2019. Now, 753 Mock-up/Model Traffic Team vehicles are on duty on a 24/7 working basis in our country :)
In addition to current supervision methods, we have also benefited from aircraft technology. We have begun the practice of aerial traffic control via drones and helicopters. Between October 5, 2018 - when we started to exercise the implementation- and January 6, 2020, 12,052 violations have been detected through 1,771 hours of flights by helicopters, while 107,094 violations were detected through 18,283 hours of flights by drones.
Besides, we have focused on pinpoint supervisions. We have identified the places where accidents often occur in our country and we have given them the name “accident black points” and carried out special supervisions on these points. In addition, with the measures taken during Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, we have achieved a significant reduction in accidents during the Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. The average daily loss of life in traffic accidents during the last ten years has decreased by 51.5% on Eid al-Fitr days and 34% on Eid al-Adha days, during which traffic density has increased by 61% compared to normal holiday times.
We also carried out sectoral controls within our supervision mentality. In particular, our supervisions on intercity bus and supervisions of the school service vehicles were intensively maintained. Between 2018 - 2019, we have increased our controls of intercity passenger transport by 21.2%, on the one hand. On the other hand, the increase in our overall supervision figure increased by 23% over the same period.
We Can't Achieve This Alone: Social Awareness
Socialawareness is another pillar of our new term traffic strategy. No lasting success in public administration can be achieved without the support and contribution of the society. From this point of view, we have produced awareness-raising campaigns to change current driver and pedestrian behaviour on Traffic Safety issue. In particular, we have considered “Eid al-Fitr” and “Eid al-Adha” as effective bases for these campaigns and, in practice, we have seen their benefits in the figures- as I have just stated above. We have carried out many campaigns such as "Red Whistle", "Let Your Belt Sound", “We are all together on this road" and we have intended especially for our children to actively be involved in these campaigns and enable them to get motivated. We have spread this understanding throughout the year through activities such as video, poster design competitions and other campaigns, taking it outside of the holidays. So in a sense, we made an effort to create a mental field pressure on traffic.
We Also Must Prevent The Future Accidents: Training Is Obligatory
In addition to changing the traffic behaviour of today's drivers and pedestrians in order to prevent today's accidents, we deem it necessary to provide future’s drivers and pedestrians with the right behaviour in order to prevent future accidents from today. For this purpose, we have determined a trivet of our new term strategy as training. In this context, we have further developed the ongoing training programs and launched new training projects. For instance, we have re-trained 3,050 drivers who involved in the most accidents with defects in the last 5 years. We have also renewed our children's traffic training parks and increased their numbers. Turkey currently has a total of 90 Children's Traffic Training Parks in 42 provinces.
At the end of 2020, all of our 81 provinces will enjoy these parks, along with those under construction. In 2019, 148. 585 children received trainings in these parks. Likewise, 7.2 million children have enjoyed traffic trainings within the scope of the Traffic Detectives Child Training Project; for 16. 150 students in 27 provinces, with 2 Mobile Traffic Training Trucks, we seized from drug criminals, modified and put into service; for 490 thousand citizens in public areas and for a total of 13.5 million people, along with many other projects.
Strong State, Safe Highway
It goes without saying that implementing all these strategies, studies and innovations requires a significant human and technical capacity. With the direct supports and instructions of our President, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and also his participation in person in our campaigns from time to time, we have had the opportunity to provide all the support we need quickly and effectively to ensure traffic safety. By taking this opportunity, I would like to express my gratitude to him on behalf of my country and nation. 5800 police officers have been directly appointed to traffic units after graduating from police training schools in 2018-2019. While 1 traffic team was previously deployed per every 20 kilometers on intercity roads, this distance has decreased to 16 kilometers following these recruitments. Taking the calculation in terms of population into consideration, while a traffic team previously was responsible for 23.000 people, this number decreased to 17.000. Besides, 600 new motorcycles were bought for the traffic units, thereby significantly increasing the response capacity of the teams.
Traffic With Pedestrian Priority
I would like to add two revolutionary steps to all these strategic approaches. The first one is to enshrine the violations such as spinning, drift, abarth exhaust -called as weaving through traffic among the people - within in the scope of crime and increase their penalties through the regulation. The number of transactions carried out by our audit units within this scope in 2019 has been 3,758 for drift crime; 17,727 for abarth exhaust.
Our second important revolutionary step is our transition to an understanding as Traffic with Pedestrian Priority. In October 2018, we announced this new approach as a campaign with a slogan of "Priority for Pedestrian, Priority for Life". By virtue of the amendment in the 74th article of the Law on Highway Traffic. We have achieved a full 22% reduction in pedestrian deaths during the first year of implementation, and we managed to reduce pedestrian deaths from 495 to 385 for the first year.
What About The Results?
In the light of these, what results have all these efforts and many measures, not highlighted here, yielded?
At the very outset it seems appropriate to establish that “2011-2020 Highway Traffic Safety Strategic Plan” is now on the brink of being completed and has reached its targets a year before envisaged.
Considering the Loss of life caused by Traffic Accidents per 100 Thousand People, which indicates an international standard, the world average is 18, 5 in the EU, 11.4 in the USA, 4.85 in France, and 3.96 in Germany.
In our country, while this figure was 9.6 in 2015, it has been fallen to 6.5 by of the end of 2019. According to the World Health Organization’s data, while this figures decreased from 18.8 to 18.2 between 2000-2016 around the world, it seems clear that the fact that the decrease of this figure from 9.6 to 6.5 in Turkey in the last 4 years highlights a development above the world average. Should we speak of the net figure, in Turkey, the total number of loss of life registered in traffic accidents in 2015 was 7530. Decreased to 6.675 in 2018, this number has been 5,473 as of the end of 2019.
In particular, the 22.4% decrease in the number of accidents involving deaths between 2018-2019 and the 25.1% decrease in the loss of live of scene of accident is an unprecedented rapid decrease in the world.
With the aim of facilitating the comparison, when we consider 2011 as 100, the number of vehicles has increased from 131.1 to 143.9, and that of drivers has increased from 123.8 to 134 between the end of 2016 and 2019, while - in spite of this- the number of accidents involving deaths has decreased from 93.3 to 67.8, and that of loss of life from 91.1 to 65.8.
New Targets In Traffic, A New Future
The positive outcomes arising from many steps that we have intended to highlight here from the beginning and those we couldn’t introduce further here are clearly observed from all data. However, here is the obvious truth: since the human life is involved in traffic accidents, the number of 1 is even a big number for us and certainly it is not possible to consider ourselves fully successful until we decrease it to 0. In this regard, we have to determine new goals and new strategies for ourselves in the upcoming period. In the short period, in order to reduce the losses, our statistically target for 2020 is 6% decrease in fatal accidents and %3 decrease in accidents with personal injury. Our controls will increasingly continue in order to achieve this target. Likewise, our activities for increasing ‘’the perceived sense of capture risk‘’ that we have been practising on drivers and pedestrians for a long while will continue uninterruptedly. Besides that, reducing the bureaucracy in all services of Traffic is
among the goals of the upcoming period.
As in all of our previous step we have taken so far, our legislative steps will continue in the upcoming
period. We will also meticulously track the activities at the practice points, such as the joint inspections of Police - Gendarmerie, Model Traffic Team practises, special feast holiday inspections, target-planned inspections, point inspections towards the locations and time slots where the accidents occur intense, increasing face-to-face inspections and standing by 50% rate. In addition, the controls and awareness-raising activities on the use of mobile phones and wearing seat belts in the moving vehicle will - of course- also continue without any interruption.
‘2011-2020 Strategic Plan of Highway Traffic Safety ‘’ has been finalized. We have reached its targets as of 2019. Now, we are setting forth 2021-2030 Strategic Plan and our targets. Our new strategic goal for this will be the ‘’Safe System‘’ approach. Human-beings can make mistakes. We will try to make people not to make mistakes with the Safe System Approach and besides, we also will seek
to develop a system that will compensate and cover possible mistakes in traffic. Building safer roads,
creating safer signing and signalisation systems, safer vehicles, safer and functional speed limits that
will not cause people to make mistakes, ensuring the impeccability of post-accident response equipment and methods are among the goals of new era.
We are a strong country that is under serious security risks in respect of our geographical situation and such risks successfully. However, it is obvious that the traffic accidents has nothing to do with our geography or any other factor. It is an issue that we have to solve completely. As a matter of fact, we have come a long way. The fact that our road infrastructure has reached and even exceeded the world standards, and our 112 emergency action capacity has been strengthened, as well as health service quality has increased has significantly contributed to this success.
It can be clearly observed from our efforts so far that we can achieve. We still have a long distance ahead, but we have significantly come a long way. Thus, we are hopeful and diligent.
In this respect, I believe that the Road Safety Week we celebrate between 2-8 May in order to create a significant awareness, will make significant contributions to our struggle against traffic accidents. I
would like to thank to everyone who have contributed to this success and all our colleagues, as well as all of our citizens who have complied or attempted to comply with the rules. I wish the Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives, patience to their beloved ones and a quick recovery to our wounded citizens.