Road traffic crashes in Uganda: The Ugandan flag should be at half-mast all year-long

By Admin

All of us are road users on Uganda’s roads that have been declared one of the deadliest in the world.

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By Esther Bayiga Zziwa

The Uganda flag was flown at half-mast for 3 days as we mourned the 22 lives that were lost in a crash at Kiryandongo.

Uganda has an unacceptably high number of deaths due to road traffic crashes estimated at over 10,000 lives annually according to the World Health Organisation. That is 28 people every day that are lost and 1 person every hour. It means that technically, the Ugandan flag should be at half-mast every day all year round.

Let’s also remember all those that are lost throughout the year even as we mourn the 22. Road traffic injuries are now endemic and none of us can ignore them anymore. All of us are road users on Uganda’s roads that have been declared one of the deadliest in the world. As I look at the situation, I am reminded of the rat trap story.

 A rat looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. What food might it contain? He was aghast to discover that it was a rat trap. Retreating to the barnyard the rat proclaimed the warning; “There’s a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house! “The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Rat, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.” The rat turned to the pig and told him, “There’s a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house!”

“I am so very sorry Mr. Rat,” sympathised the pig, “but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured that you are in my prayers. “The rat turned to the cow. She said, “Like wow, Mr. Rat. A rat trap. I am in grave danger. Duh?” So the rat returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s rat trap alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a rat trap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught.

In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the barnyard for the soup’s main ingredient. His wife’s sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock.

To feed them the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer’s wife did not get well.  She died, and so many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.

So the next time you hear that someone died in a road traffic crash, remember that when there is a rat trap in the house, the whole barnyard’s at risk. Let’s build a safe system approach with everyone concerned. We ought to stop asking; why did that crash happen and ask; why was that person seriously injured in the crash. To stop blaming the driver for the cause and severity of the crash to recognizing that road or vehicle design plays a part in some crashes, and that good design minimizes their severity. 

Can we stop reacting to crashes and incidents and proactively identify highest risks and work across the whole system to reduce them? We all need to share responsibility as road users and system designers to achieve safe vehicles, safe roads, safe speeds and safe road users. The ultimate million dollar question is, how can Uganda create a ‘forgiving environment’ that prevents serious injury or death when crashes occur? Unless we figure that out, the flag should remain at half-mast all year long because every life matters!

The writer is a research fellow atMakerere University School of Public Health, Trauma, Injury and Disability Project