What kills as many people in Mexico as organized crime? Traffic accidents.
For many of the people who gathered in San Pedro Cholula, Puebla, on the weekend for the International Pedestrians’ Congress, Mexico’s traffic death statistics are unacceptable.
At least three organizations representing the interests of pedestrians and cyclists called on President Peña Nieto to make traffic safety a priority and follow through on a national program that went into effect in April last year.
In 2012, there were 414,627 traffic accidents in which 17,102 people died, according to national health statistics, a number comparable to the deaths attributed to organized crime.
Attendees at the weekend event also lamented the failure of the federal government to live up to its obligations with regard to the United Nations’ Decade of Action for Road Safety, which culminates in 2020. A goal of that initiative is to reduce traffic fatalities by 50%, a goal that those at the conference believe will not be achieved.
For Areli Carreón of the organization Bicitekas, a bicyclists’ advocacy group, Mexico’s culture of crime begins on its streets.
“The impunity and culture of illegality so common in Mexico begin with day-to-day tolerated violations of the most simple form of the law, that of traffic regulations,” she said. “We cannot aspire to live under the rule of law, with peace and national security, if we do not follow through on the implementation of traffic laws.”
She said public policies such as Sweden’s Vision Zero initiative, a traffic safety strategy that takes the position that any loss of life is unacceptable, are needed to save lives in Mexico.
“There is no excuse or pretext not to act,” said Carreón.
Dana Corres of the Liga Peatonal, or Pedestrians’ League, observed that local police have neither the resources nor the training to act effectively to prevent traffic accidents because traffic safety is not a federal government priority.
“We call upon the president of the republic to guarantee the safety of Mexicans, beginning with something very simple: our right to travel in safety on the streets of our country,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
The congress brought hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists to what Cholula Mayor José Juan Espinoza describes as a “proud bicycle community.” The city has installed 150 bicycle parking stations, he said, and every time a road undergoes repairs a bicycle lane is installed.
Traffic regulations and their enforcement was also the topic of a conference on transportation held last year in Mexico City.