On Saturday morning myself like many in Uganda and beyond, woke up to the shocking news of a road accident involving a Gagga bus on the Lira-Kampala highway which occurred in the night of Friday, 25th May 2018 and claimed up to 22 lives, with about 15 others critically injured.
Preliminary reports attributed the cause of the accident to over-speeding (reckless driving) by the Bus driver. Indeed the Police Spokesperson, Emilian Kayiima noted that most of our road accidents are caused by human error. These could be averted if we took bold steps and enforced them. The Uganda police have done well to put in place operations such as fika salama.
However, these operations are normally stationed in one spot which drivers know. So the drivers over speed in some sections of the road and reduce speed as they approach the fika slama spots. To make this more effective, they should be roving police patrols and putting their check points in unpredictable spots.
Over speeding by public transport drivers could be a result of irresponsible passenger behavior. I am told that some passengers actually like and encourage over-speeding such that when other passengers start complaining about the driver over-speeding, they are shouted down.
Passengers need to be united in these circumstances and speak with a united voice against errant drivers. It is therefore most important and even most urgent that passengers should be empowered to prevail over reckless drivers and any intimidation from speed-loving passengers and this is how; the Uganda Police should provide telephone hotline(s) that passengers can call in the event that a driver is over speeding and is insolent.
All buses must then be forced to display this number(s) prominently inside the bus.
Now the recklessness of one errant driver has caused pain to tens of families, hundreds of relatives and friends and indeed an entire nation. Our government must not only wait for such tragic and gruesome accidents to happen for it to swing into action but for just a few weeks and then return to slumber.
Someone in government must make road safety their daily preoccupation and errant drivers must be dealt with decisively to send a message to other such drivers who put hundreds of lives at risk on our roads on a daily basis.
Richard Olong is a Social Development expert, and Citizen of Uganda, working with ActionAid Uganda