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Uniform traffic laws needed, say experts

Licence requirements, blood-alcohol tests are among issues lacking in uniformity

That uniformity and coordination are both lacking in traffic regulations and their enforcement was a point on which some experts agreed this week at the 10th International Congress on Sustainable Transport.

During a panel discussion on Monday, the government relations director for Seguros AXA said Mexico needs a single set of national requirements for obtaining a driver’s licence, as well as one uniform permitted blood-alcohol limit for driving, along with the standardized application of alcohol testing equipment.

In addition, Hugo Martínez McNaught also suggested standardizing criteria for setting speed limits in urban areas, the use of motorcycle helmets, seatbelts and infant seats, as well as the prohibition of devices that can distract drivers, primarily cell phones.

Martínez also proposed the creation of a national traffic safety fund and a national traffic safety agency.

The executive secretary of the National Accident Prevention Council (Conapra) told the session that more work needs to be undertaken jointly by both health and transportation officials who are involved in the prevention of traffic accidents.

But Martha Híjar said in spite of the lack of coordination, a goal to reduce traffic deaths by 50%, a World Health Organization challenge, will be met. However, while deaths are down, traffic injuries have increased, she said.

The Mexico City conference, which wraps up today, is organized by CTS EMBARQ Mexico, whose executive director wrote last month in Animal Político about the high cost of traffic accidents in Mexico.

Adriana Lobo said they are the principal cause of death among people aged five to 35. In 2011, there were almost half a million accidents, in which 17,000 people died and more than 172,000 were injured. The economic cost is estimated at more than US $10 billion a year.

Despite the extent of the problem, Mexico lacks integrated national or state laws, along with a national strategy, designed to address it, says Lobo.

Another speaker pointed out the inability of states to share traffic-related information. If a driver with out-of-state plates commits an infraction in the Federal District, its authorities do not have access to the database of the relevant state to be able to impose a sanction.

The report made no mention of how the process would work in the case of a vehicle that lives in one state but is registered in another in which registration costs are cheaper. Nor was there anything said about the enforcement of traffic regulations.

Your correspondent, driving home on a federal highway after dark recently, followed a full-size tourist bus on which not a single one of its rear lights was working.

Sources: El Financiero (sp), Animal Político (sp)

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