Monday March 18 2013

Address road safety concerns

By Editorial

This country’s worrying rate of road carnage has once again come into focus after a World Health Organisation (WHO)report on road safety named Uganda one of the African countries with the highest rate of road accidents.

According to the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, Uganda had 2,954 deaths in 2010 as a result of road accidents; Nigeria had 4,065 while South Africa registered the highest number at 13,768 by 2009.

While the figures in the report are fairly old, these findings are not surprising to Ugandans given that road carnage is still a big problem. The key message for Uganda is, therefore, obvious: We must reduce the unacceptably high number of deaths on our roads.

According to police, last year’s statistics indicate that Uganda reduced accidents by 10 per cent, but this improvement is minimal. Various interventions aimed at restoring sanity on our roads remain ineffective.

In the recent weeks, police have, for instance, stepped up the use of breathalyzers – an effort, they say, will reduce accidents in urban centres. The queries about the manner in which this otherwise noble effort is carried out aside, police officers seem to be concentrating on one area and paying less attention to other key factors that contribute to road fatalities.

Of course the effort to reduce death and injuries from drunken driving is crucial and culprits should face tough penalties that are within the provisions of our laws. Just last week, a survey titled ‘World’s 10 best-drinking nations’ done by CNN ranked Uganda 8th in the world and first in Africa in consuming alcohol. It is also true that many Ugandans drink and drive. However, police should pay the same attention they pay to Kampala’s bar hoppers to the reckless drivers plying Uganda’s highways.

According to WHO, only 28 countries, covering seven per cent of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on key risk factors of drink-driving, speeding, failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, etc.

Uganda has regulations for all these risk factors but boda bodas ride dangerously without helmets, yet most accidents in Kampala are caused by boda bodas. We need stringent safety measures that will go beyond arresting the urban drunken drivers. Let’s start by improving the quality of driver training and testing and impart road safety regulations in Ugandans right from schools.