BUENOS AIRES – Two young Argentine lawyers back in 1974, when the country had around 3.5 million cars, began calling for an end to the use of the term “accidents” to describe auto-related casualties, saying they were avoidable.
Just over 40 years later, the number of vehicles in the South American country has quadrupled and Juan Fairstein and Raul Montesinos are still working at their Buenos Aires office to raise awareness and avoid more deaths among pedestrians, the weakest link in the “transportation chain.”
As part of their work, they provide free legal advice to prospective clients, helping them decide whether to take their cases to court and how much to ask for in damages.
The attorneys, who head up the Pedestrian Civil Defense Association, a non-governmental organization, say a 1986 law that requires schools to provide road-safety education has never been enforced and that Argentina still has not come up with an effective advertising campaign in the area of prevention.
“When a beverage is created, extraordinary marketing studies are conducted to see what’s the best message so people buy that product and not a different one. Something similar needs to be done in the area of road ‘accidentology’ in Argentina, because it’s clear that what’s been done so far has failed,” Fairstein said.
The attorney also said there were no serious official figures on rates of injuries and deaths, because only those hospitalized in public medical facilities are registered.
The NGO Luchemos por la Vida (Let’s Fight for Life), which seeks to prevent traffic accidents, says Argentina failed to reduce its death rates from road accidents between 1990 and 2014, the year in which the latest figures are available.
During that same period, meanwhile, Spain reduced auto death rates by 81 percent due to the Iberian nation’s awareness-raising efforts, Fairstein said.
“That’s why we always stress that it’s not a Hispanic thing, but rather a matter of education. It can be done, but we need to get started,” he added.