The National Road Transport Safety Council (NRTSC) of Ethiopia in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy in Addis Abeba has organized a full day workshop today aimed at finding ways of improving road safety in Ethiopia. Discussions on the issues of traffic wellbeing were carried out among various stakeholders gathered at the workshop held at Ghion Hotel.
Ethiopia’s record in road safety is worsening with grave accidents becoming frequent resulting in losses of lives and property damage.
According to data from the Federal Police Commission, in 2006 Ethiopian Year alone (2013/4) 3331 lives were lost due to road accidents and more than one billion ETB in property damage. In the first six months of this year 1568 people have already lost their lives and have cost the country more than 240 million ETB.
“The situation of road safety in the country is worrying,” said Tekle-Tsadik Reba, State Minister of Transport, in his opening speech in today’s workshop. According to him, this is attributed to “high numbers of vulnerable road users, ineffectual law enforcement, low level of awareness among the public and lack of integration among stakeholders.”
Jan Sadek, Swedish Ambassador to Ethiopia, on his part said that traffic accidents were the ninth highest causes of death worldwide taking around 1.4 million lives annually. “When I arrived in Ethiopia for my tenure around a year ago, the first high government officials I met were from the Ministry of Transport because of our work in the Light Railway project,” said Ambassador Sadek. The Swedish state owned firm SweRoad (Swedish National Road Consulting) consults Addis Abeba’s 475 million USD light railway project.
Since the introduction in 1997 of Vision Zero Initiative, a Swedish multi-national road traffic safety project which aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic, the number of road accidents have dramatically decreased in Sweden. The initiative requires that fatalities and serious injurious be reduced to zero by 2020. “It is an ambitious plan. But it is doable,” said the Ambassador. “It is based on the simple fact that humans make mistakes. So the road system needs to be designed to protect us at every turn.” He added that his country was ready to share its experience and help Ethiopia improve road safety.
According to Tilahun Yimer of the NRTSC, the major cause of accidents in Ethiopia is attributed to the low driving skill which is believed to account for 75-80 per cent of all accidents. Poor technical qualities of vehicles and inadequate law enforcement are also contributors. More than half of the cars in the country are older than ten years.
The Capital leads in accidents followed by the two regional states, Oromia and Amhara. “Studies show that simply by applying Geographic Information System the amount of accidents can be reduced by around 40 per cent,” said Tilahun. “Even if traffic laws comply with international standards, their enforcement is very weak to the extent of non-existent focusing on only few laws.” This was a point strongly argued by Addis Standard’s editorial of March 2025.
“The most vulnerable parts of society in Ethiopia are pedestrians and public transport users” said Mulugeta Negash, a PHD fellow at UNISA who is studying road safety. In the United States, for instance, 60 per cent of traffic accident causalities are drivers. However in Ethiopia driver causalities are just five per cent. “The causes are often social, economical and even developmental. But behavior also plays a major role,” he said.
Integrating all the stakeholders, especially law enforcement and regional road bureaus, is recommended by Mulugeta as key points to tackle the problem. Additionally would be drivers must receive enough attitude instruction hand in hand with the technical training, according to him.