All Ugandans should stand up, speak out and stand to be counted against these preventable road massacres
By Denis Kibira
It is a tragedy to lose any life in a road accident, it is a great loss to humanity, to our country and to their family. On Friday, May 22, 2018 another horrific and needless accident at Kiryandongo took 23 lives while many were left nursing serious injuries.
These deaths have left widows, widowers, orphans and dependents whose lives will never be the same again.
All Ugandans should stand up, speak out and stand to be counted against these preventable road massacres. The Uganda Traffic Police in a bid to curb road accidents in the country started a campaign code named “Fika salama” on Masaka road in 2016. The campaign has since continued intermittently.
Private companies have also recently come out in support of improved road behaviour. Vivo Energy’s ‘Tweddeko’ campaign and Nation Media’s “Stick to your lane” campaigns are welcome contributions, but they can only complement concerted, sustained government programmes that are hardly in place.
Majority of road accidents in Uganda have been attributed to human error or reckless driving exhibited by some individuals that feel untouchable and more powerful than others on the road. These include drivers of large buses and trucks, commuter taxis, drivers of influential government officials and bodabodas (not in any particular order).
One would think these are the drivers that have the most road experience (save for the simply unruly bodaboda riders) and, therefore, expect them to know and respect road rules and have more respect for other road users, but no.
These drivers’ respect is only reserved for Police checkpoints or road blocks, which they have mastered and thereafter simply drive like they are possessed. This is a growing phenomenon that should be addressed urgently.
The Nation Media “Stick to your lane” campaign emphasises that drivers should stick to their lanes but when one looks around, there are very few roads particularly in Kampala and surroundings that have well demarcated lanes. Even two-year old roads have had their road markings fade away. Also as part of this campaign, the Police is supposed to prosecute transgressors, but there has not been any public indication of this.
Most of our roads have few or no parking areas which have led to reckless and inconsiderable parking on roads by commuter taxis and cargo trucks. Drivers literally stop without indicating and this is done without consideration of following traffic.
The reckless driving is also encouraged by us, the citizens. Passengers and other road users can do more to prevent unruly driving, but apathy is growing across all spheres of life in Uganda. For some reason, we are afraid of one another, just prefer to keep our peace or we are just not bothered. This is where campaigns should target and also leadership support is required.
What can be done?
Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement! We have the Ministry of Transport, Uganda Transport Board, Uganda National Roads Authority, Kampala City Council Authority and other regulators besides the Uganda Police Force, but there is still very limited enforcement.
Enforcement should move beyond short term campaigns and around a few spots to sustained activities and more visible activities with more stringent punishments such as suspension or withdrawal of driving licenses, black listing and punishing of errant drivers and/or their companies.
The procurement and installation of traffic cameras across all major roads is overdue yet this would ease enforcement efforts.
Self-regulation by taxi and bus operators as well as bodaboda associations should also be encouraged.
However, in order for enforcement efforts to yield success, there is need for equality. Only cars that have the right of way should be allowed to overtake. The rest of us, however big we are, or feel, should obey traffic rules or face the law equally.
Lastly, regulators and other corporate social responsibility campaigns should focus on guiding citizens on the road use rules and reporting of transgressors.
The writer works with HEPS-Uganda