Jesus Monclus: “The planet and the people are vulnerable. Risk identification and prevention education is critical”
In Colombia, the number of motorcyclists killed or injured in road accidents has reached an unprecedented level. A few days ago, the country released regulations for the essential use of helmets, which is applicable under three conditions. The Director for the Fundación MAPFRE Prevention and Road Safety Area, Jesús Monclús, considers these new regulations to be timely and well-conceived. A total of 5,000 lives are lost per year, of which 53 per cent are motorcyclists, 30 per cent of which die from brain injuries. Helmets are necessary tools, which serve to prevent deaths in the event of high-impact, high-speed collisions, as well as in the even of minor falls, where impacts may lead to serious life-long injuries. Without the expanded body of a car, motorcyclists are largely unprotected.
In an interview with Radio Nacional de Colombia, the Director for the Fundación MAPFRE Prevention and Road Safety Area, Jesús Monclús, pointed out the organization’s commitment to the country, in which some 700,000 euros (3 billion Colombian pesos) were invested last year into fourteen projects centered on social action, education, food and health, insurance culture, accident prevention and road safety. Throughout 2020, the priority in Colombia—as was in other countries where Fundación MAPFRE operates—was to help the most vulnerable during COVID-19 through the donation of medical and healthcare resources and equipment. This was done in accordance with the international grand plan of 35 million donations worldwide.
With regard to the collapse of healthcare systems, Monclús congratulated the Ministry of Transport and the National Road Safety Agency of Colombia on what it considers “one of the best international practices in the field of road safety”: Legislating the use of helmets for drivers and passengers on all roads throughout the country regardless of motorcycle cylinder size. A true “act of generosity” toward individuals as well as family members, friends, co-workers and the healthcare system as a whole.
The new legislation in Colombia, which entered into force on January 23, 2021, incorporates three areas: Drivers and passengers are required to wear helmets that provide full-head protection and an adequate fastening mechanism; drivers are not permitted to use cell phones or any other device without hands-free functionalities; and, those using helmets with a full-face covering, must fully close and secure this covering.
Around the world, and especially in Latin America, motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists represent the most at risk road users and account for more than half of all deaths. Motor cycle accidents account for 28 percent of deaths in the region, and 70 percent of deaths in countries including the Dominican Republic. The use of an approved helmet reduces the risk of death by about 40 percent and the risk of serious injury by about 70 percent. In light of these figures, domestic road-safety authorities and the local Fundación MAPFRE team–led by Pablo Jackson and Claudia Blanco as head of communication–highlighted the importance of communication and the promotion of best practices. Raising awareness about the radio program was also emphasized during the interview.
Asked about the foundation’s work, Monclus emphasized the preservation of life on both ethical and humanitarian grounds since life is “a miracle, truly exceptional and possibly even unique in our universe.” “The planet and the people are vulnerable. Risk identification and prevention education is critical. Our mission is to save lives,” he explained. And we do so at Fundación MAPFRE “in a way that accompanies legislation, such as fines or the compulsory use of helmets.” Another success of the legislation in Colombia, in his view, is that it encourages the use of those helmets approved through legislation in Colombia, America and Europe. This, in turn, makes way for more manufacturers to enter the market and reduces the unit and industry costs as manufacturers learn and global competitiveness grows.
“All road accidents are preventable,” says Jesús Monclús, who referred to the Zero Objective campaign in defense of prevention as a culture. Accidents are not random, and that is why companies, administrations and all organizations should lead by example with their transport policies, their recruitment requirements and, in general, through the promotion of preventative measures.
First aid education and training on how to fasten and remove helmets–adjusted as close as possible to the chin—are also important. In the event of a collision, helmets should only be removed after a healthcare provider has examined the injuries sustained, unless the injured person is not breathing and urgent CPR is required.
Efforts to reduce the accident rate must begin from childhood. Very good results are being achieved in road education for schools in Colombia’s main cities, such as Bogotá and Medellín, through the provision of specific Fundación MAPFRE materials for teachers and family members, within the framework of the “practice of road education” school program. A road-safety park, in which the Bogotá Police participated, has also been launched, as well as a campaign through an augmented-reality app called: Am I a Safe Motorist? “Use your head, use your helmet,” should be the basic take-away for all children riding their first bike.