In a space of weeks, accidents have wrecked havoc to our country. The dead and the wounded are in the hundreds! On Capital gang last Saturday the moderator, Ssemweya Musoke equated Uganda’s casualty toll to that of war-torn South Sudan. He quipped that our accident victims mirror those of S. Sudan which is at war –a startling proposition indeed!
Accident causes are well known but action to mitigate them is very limited. A quick scan on google shows you that Uganda started off this year with the loss of Dr. Obonyo and his family of 4 who perished at Bobi, Omoro in Gulu. A bad tyre burst and caused their Van to overturn. That quickly tells you that Dr. Obonyo was travelling in a dangerous mechanical condition (DMC) vehicle all the way from Kampala. The fact that it was a hired Tour vehicle tells you another story. Companies doing business operate defective vehicles and put their clients at risk.
In recent weeks it’s been a blood bath on the High-ways. Fuso kills 10 in Ntungamo, Kampiringisa crash kills 21, Masaka Road crash claims 4 including a traffic police officer who attended the scene, Kyenjojo crash kills 6. The list is endless. Added together, accidents are becoming a threat to our national security. There are many accidents that do not grab headlines but people die. Something must be done to stem this carnage on the roads.
Let me quickly say what I see as the problem. Number one is careless/reckless driving. Drivers either because of poor training or sheer stupidity think that speeding is a high. Regardless of road, weather, visibility & posture conditions they race on. This is killer number one. Speed kills.
Two – condition of vehicles on the road. If a vehicle has worn tires, defective brakes, or any other structural defects and that vehicle remains on the road, it’s just a matter of time before it causes an accident. To make matters worse, these are public service vehicles carrying many people.
Three – ineffective traffic policing. I see dangerous occurrences on the road daily, DMC vehicles on the move, overloaded trucks on the highway, broken-down vehicles abandoned on the main roads, government vehicles driven by inconsiderate drivers who think that other road users don’t matter, they overtake anywhere and anyhow. Taxi drivers and boda bodas are a law unto themselves – they flout all traffic rules in the presence of traffic police. Have you spoted boda bodas driving on the wrong side of the round-about or facing you on the wrong side of the carriage way? Clearly, Traffic Police is ill trained and ill equipped to handle what’s up on the road! When they attend an accident scene, traffic Police do not ‘anticipate’ situations that could follow. They fail to secure the scene, and as we saw last week in Masaka, a traffic police officer died and a pile up was caused at the scene. Instead of positioning officers a mile away from the accident to slow down traffic, officers were dealing with the accident at an unsecured scene. This is operational and training aspect for traffic police.
It has been mentioned that drivers get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Long distance drivers, taxis and Bus drivers as well as ordinary individuals get on the roads while drunk. This is dangerous. Police should do random tests for this especially on High-ways and urban centres. Equally, penalties should be punitive and not just people getting away with a small fine.
Using mobile phones while driving is dangerous. It causes unnecessary accidents because of lack of due care and attention on the road. There was a time when Police was taking this seriously and stopping motorists observed on the phone. This has since died off! Officers watch as motorists chat on phones while driving even on the High-ways! Police must get serious on this. Stop and give instant punitive penalties. Whenever Police stops a motorist for any offence, however minor, it should be an opportunity to examine the vehicle, check out the driver, are they Licensed, Is the vehicle registered to them, do they have outstanding fines & penalties Etc?
One traffic offence can lead Police to discover many things. In developed countries, that’s how they arrest wanted criminals and discover those driving while on a ban or under the influence. This is the reason an average driver in Europe will do everything by the book to avoid being stopped by Police! Here, even when you are stopped, you may provide something small and carry on with your DMC on the road to go and kill people half a mile down the road. We must re-think our Road Safety strategies or else we are in deep trouble.
Dennis Katungi – Communications & Media Relations Manager, UMC