On 4th May 2022, over 21 people died in a bus accident that took place a few kilometers on fort portal Mubende Road. There have been variations on the possible cause/causes of this accident. What’s is un disputable is that on that week alone over 118 people died in accidents including the Nebbi and Tirinyi roads. The dictionary meaning of the word accident is unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and un intentionally, typically resulting in damage, injury or death.
From the definition above, three words are key- Unfortunate incident, unexpectedly and un intentionally. I will not derail much on the first word but look closely on the second and third words respectively.
Un expectedly: this means that what happens is not expected hence, you cannot prepare for it. In Uganda, this is the most abused word when it comes to road transport. For any driver to be on the road, you are expected to do the following, make sure your car is road worthy, ensure that its serviced and maintained periodically, insured either with third party or comprehensive insurance, etc.
Secondly the driver must respect road signs and markings especially speed limit signs, junctions, no overtaking signs etc.
Drivers are required by both law and practice to wear seat (safety) belts at all times, desist from use of phone while driving, don’t drink alcohol and drive, stop every after two hours on non-stop drive and stretch, don’t over take in bends or where you cannot at least see 100 meters ahead of you etc. Most of the above requirements are virtually not technical but individual discipline. All the above are regularly not done and followed hence accidents.
Common causes of road transport in Uganda
Findings of the cause of accident of Link bus by MOWT has been identified as poor judgement by the driver. He failed to negotiate the corner. The by standers who were there said that the bus was at a higher speed.
The most and common cause of road accidents in Uganda has been attributed to over speeding. Over speeding don’t only cause accidents but fatal ones. Imagine a bus carrying 64 or 72 passengers and none of them is putting on a seat belt. This boarder to madness. I have witnessed nasty accidents where cars have been damaged beyond repair but occupants survive by just the fact that they had safety belts on the bodies.
Apart from over speeding, a number of drivers or road users drive carelessly. Some behave as if they on their way to heaven or heal. It’s very possible to see a car overtaking 6 cars ahead of him on masaka road. This is not reckless but the same driver immediately becomes a danger to other innocent road users. Recently a Stanbic Bank staff was knocked dead while standing on the road side in Kanyaryeru. Albert died a hopeless death.
The UN General Assembly identified 5 interventions (also known as pillars) to combat road accidents.
- Road Safety Management-This encourages the creation of multi-sectoral partnerships and designation of a lead agencies with the capacity to develop and lead the delivery of national road safety strategies, plans and targets, supported by data and research.
- Safer Roads and Mobility-It is about raising the inherent safety and protective quality of road for the benefit of road users, especially the vulnerable like pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. These include designing safe walkways, designate stop points, road signs and markings etc.
- Safer Vehicles-Drive vehicles that are only road worthy, well serviced and fully functional. Also encourage universal deployment of improved vehicle safety technologies like automatic vehicle check points which should be regular and scheduled.
- Safe Road Users-Develop comprehensive programs to improve road user behavior. Sustained or increased enforcement of laws and standards, combined with public awareness and education to increase seat-belt, helmet use, zebra crossing points and to reduce drunk driving, over speeding
- Post – Crash Response-Increase responsiveness to post-crash emergencies and improve the ability of health systems to provide good emergency treatment and longer term rehabilitation for crash victims. The private support this role.
Police accident figures
According to the Road Safety Performance Review Report for Uganda which was published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in 2018, at least ten people die on Uganda’s roads every day.
In December, last year, the Deputy Director, Traffic and Road Safety in the Uganda Police, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Phillip Acaye, told participants during the launch of the annual Road Safety Week that over the last five years, at least 3,500 people have died on Ugandan roads every year, while close to 10,000 have narrowly escaped with severe injuries.
Even in 2020— a year which saw the economy shut down for at least four months to contain the COVID-19 pandemic— 3,633 people were killed in road crashes in Uganda. That figure saw an increase from the one posted in 2018 and 2019 when at least 3,194 and 3,407 people respectively were killed in road crashes, according to police data. These figures are scary. They need a different intervention. The deaths are even higher than covid19 death between January 20220 to May 2022 (3597). There current police interventions seem not effective if we are to go by records. The curve is growing.
Current Kampala traffic management outlook.
If we pick Kampala city as the sample study on how traffic is managed, you wonder, what kind of work is a head for traffic police department. Boda bodas are crazy, private numbered plate vehicles that abuse traffic rules and regulations are un accountable. Government blue and red number plates seem to be licensed to abuse every road signs, markings and traffic lights. With such behaviors, expect the death and injured people numbers to touch the sky. Yes, the roads are marginally bad, small, potholed etc. but drivers’ behavior contribute immensely to the current road accidents. If all road users observed traffic rules and regulations, accidents in Uganda would reduce by over 75%. Over speeding alone contributed to 36% of total road accidents in Uganda in 2020. Imagine, if you lessen off reckless driving, drink driving, phone driving certainly more Ugandans would be still alive. DMCs and the small roads excuses which are technical errors don’t account for many accidents like the individual motivated errors. A number of government vehicles have installed sirens that they use throw other road users off the roads as if they have right of way. Most of these vehicles belong to Judiciary and other MDAs. These are acts that portray road indiscipline that leads to traffic accidents. If government officials who make and enforce laws violet them, how do you expect mwanichi-Boda boda, taxi driver to follow and obey traffic laws, rules and regulations?
Road discipline should be part of curriculum at both high school and university level. Instead of European history at A level, this paper can be replaced with environment and road safety studies. These two impact on us as Ugandans now, tomorrow and the future.
Road traffic fines should be very high. For example, over speeding, drunk driving, phone driving should attract at least a fine of 2 million fine. These fines will help government to earn revenue but will also be a deterrent to traffic rules violators.
When Fika salama operation was initiated, violators would be taken to court immediately. I remember my nephew was a victim. He was taken to Mpigi court and convicted on a traffic case. He paid immediately. He even forfeited his journey to Mbarara. There is a need of road side courts to deal with traffic laws violators. Imagine a traffic court at Kitugum house or Entebbe road, Luziira and Kitalya would be full in just three days. Utilities have courts, wildlife has court, industrial labour has court why not traffic. Traffic cases are eassy to determine because in most cases, you have the suspect, the car, the evidence espwecially those of over speeding, the speed gun recordings are available. Traffic officer finds it easy to process the file and have it sanctioned immediately.
Police should use CCTV network to track down those that misuse roads. It’s very common to see red number plate vehicles violating every traffic rule and regulation on Ugandan roads. This act is not only frustrating but it demeans our society and our country. It’s an act of gross indiscipline, un considerate and dangerous to other road users.
Post-crash response and management. The link bus accident was fairly handled especially the coming in of military to support nurses and doctors was handy. The only challenge is act of bystanders robbing victims and their belongings. This act boarder to insanity.
Generally, In Uganda, roads are a death trap now. Whereas government has invested huge resources to improve on road network, Ugandans have also invested time and effort in violating traffic rules, laws and regulations. Traffic road enforcement team carry out ruthless operations that can apprehend offenders and restore sanity on Uganda roads. As it is of now, Uganda roads are another form of covid19 killing thousands of people time and again.
Samson Tinka is a safety and security expert.
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