Uruguay’s roads became much safer in 2015, the government said on Monday. The country’s Interior Ministry and National Road Safety Unit (Unasev) revealed that the number of traffic accidents this year (until December 15) recorded a 6.5 percent decrease year-on-year.
This is the second consecutive year that the number of road accidents dropped in the country. Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi highlighted the decrease in motorcycle accidents due to efforts made by the national police. Unasev head Gerardo Barrios also attributed the development to the country’s efforts to control the number of motorcycles on the roads.
A crackdown on illegal motorcycles (those who use the road without proper documents) that started in March this year, resulted in the confiscation of more than 8,000 motorcycles. Montevideo had the highest number of illegal motorcycles, followed by Maldonado and Canelones.
According to Barrios, 15,473 people died in traffic accidents this year, 65 less than the total number of people who died in accidents last year.
No more alcohol
The legal limit of alcohol in a driver’s blood was recently lowered from 0.3 percent per liter to a zero percent tolerance. The Chamber of Deputies recently approved the Zero Alcohol Act that penalizes regular drivers who will be caught driving with at least 0.1 percent alcohol in their blood.
A total of 0.3 grams of alcohol per liter of blood is equal to one glass of wine or beer.
“Every driver is disabled to drive vehicles of any type or category which run on public roads when the alcohol concentration in the blood (in terms of spirometer) is greater than 0.0 grams per liter,” the law reads.
This law has already been applied to professional drivers (chauffeurs, taxi drivers, and truck and bus drivers) since 2008. Barrios said that since the alcohol limit was scaled down from 0.8 percent to 0.3 percent in 2007, the number of traffic accidents linked to alcohol dropped by 300 percent. He predicted that the approval of the new law will further reduce the number of drink drivers.
The executive branch will oversee its implementation.
“An air unit will support the police surveillance conducted in the coastal areas during the summer. The incorporation of the Republican Guard in controlling the routes will strengthen the work of the highway police. They will not only assist in traffic accidents but also in smuggling, human trafficking, and other criminal acts,” Bonomi said.
Uruguay is one of the only five countries in Latin America that limits alcohol concentration in drivers’ blood. The other four are Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia.
Roads of Latin America
“In Latin America and the Caribbean 295 people are killed in road accidents every day, more than twice as many as in developed nations,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Moreno added that road accidents are the main cause of death for children between 5 and 14 years old, and the second cause of death for people between 15 to 29 years old.
Data from the United Nations showed that the Dominican Republic has one of the highest numbers of traffic accidents in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cell phone-related accidents in the country grew by 30 percent year-on-year, while the total grew by 12 percent in Mexico.
In Ecuador and Colombia, fatigue and lack of appropriate road knowledge also caused traffic accidents.
In fact, more than 120,000 people die in traffic accidents every year. This is seven times more than in Europe. The numbers will keep in growing, eventually reaching 450,000 deaths come 2025, according to the IDB.
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) reported that more than half of the victims of traffic accidents are cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. Furthermore, those affected are the most vulnerable members of the Latin American and Caribbean population.
“In addition to the suffering of the injured and their families, we must recognize that these create a strong demand in pre-hospital care and trauma. There will also be a surcharge for health services and high costs,” said PAHO director Dr. Mirta Roses.
Roses added that access to health care services is difficult to most victims because of the costs, leading to less chance to return to work or school and eventually contribute to “perpetuate the cycle of poverty.”
For the IDB, implementing road safety measures common in more developed nations will cut road accidents by 75 percent.