Thursday August 21 2014

Enforce traffic rules to tame reckless drivers

The Monday accident that claimed seven lives at Nakasongola on the Kampala-Gulu highway is a tragic reminder of the deathtraps our roads have become. Another bus accident on Mbarara-Kabale road on Wednesday left one person dead. But the Kampala-Gulu road, in particular, presents a grimmer picture requiring urgent response.

It is telling that one of the buses involved in the Nakasongola accident is Gaagaa – a bus belonging to a company that has had a bad record. This is not to single out one company, but rather to call to order all reckless drivers, who put the lives of passengers and other road users at risk.
And this is on record. In January 2011, a Gaagaa bus rammed into a truck near Kafu Bridge on Gulu highway, killing 10 people. The police repeated a familiar narrative: “The Gaagaa bus that was speeding knocked a cow and the driver lost control...,” Mr Vicent Ssekate, then deputy police spokesman, said.

More revealing was Ssekate’s statement then (2011), that Gaagaa buses had been involved in accidents killing around 40 people since October of the previous year (2010). A year later, another Gaagaa bus rammed into a stationary truck at Kalule in Luweero District on the Kampala-Gulu highway. Six people were killed! Again, police attributed the accident to reckless driving and speeding.

Following this accident, the Transport Licensing Board, suspended the operating licence of Gaagaa because, according to police, Gaagaa buses had been involved in numerous accidents since the start of its operations. During the suspension, all Gaagaa buses were supposed to be re-inspected and their drivers re-tested.

The account of Mr Fred Lwata, an eye witness of the Nakasongola accident, reaffirms the need to echo the important message: ‘Speed Kills’! He told this newspaper: “Gaagaa bus…was speeding. As [the driver] tried to overtake another vehicle, he saw the KK bus approaching from the opposite direction but it was too late for him to avoid a head on collision.”

This broadly recaps past accidents, many of which police attributed to speeding, which points to two issues: Drivers don’t respect traffic rules and law enforcers are sleeping on their job. Otherwise, why are most accidents linked to speeding? While suspensions, re-inspections and re-testing drivers are useful, police should adopt proactive measures to curb accidents. The major causes of accidents are well documented - speeding, reckless driving, fatigue, overloading and dangerous mechanical condition of a vehicle.

There are guidelines in place, especially the highway checkpoints. There is nothing new about the so-called ‘new guidelines’ police announced on Tuesday. The measures in place have failed simply because police don’t enforce them.
The solution is no brainer. Enforce the existing traffic guidelines and the reckless drivers will be tamed.