Boda Bodas: A cheap way to die
Posted Friday, March 22 2013 at 02:00
The continued lack of supervision or regulation of the motorcycle taxi industry is an unacceptable state of affairs and an indictment of the police, its political supervisors...
A report released this week attempts to put some numbers to the boda boda menace. According to lead researcher Dr Edward Naddumba of the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital, two out of every three road traffic accidents on our roads are either caused by or involve boda bodas.
Details of total number of accidents are hard to come by as most are not reported to the police or recorded, but many of the 2,000 people killed on our roads each year are boda boda riders or their passengers.
According to the researchers, accidents involving the motorcycle taxis cost Mulago Hospital Shs1.5 billion – or 15 per cent of its total budget – in the 2008/9 financial year. Throw in the unrecorded cost of treating injured people admitted to other health facilities across the country and you have a multi-billion public health problem on our hands.
Yet the response to the boda boda problem has been lukewarm and unserious. Many of these accidents would be avoided if the motorcycle taxi industry was regulated, its riders trained and certified, and safety equipment used consistently.
As it is, anyone with access to a motorcycle can jump onto one and carry their unsuspecting passengers into harm’s way without any need for training or certification.
Previous attempts to regulate the motorcycle taxi riders or enforce compliance with the need to use safety equipment like helmets have been failed by people in government putting the promise of thousands of votes ahead of the safety of millions.
Boda boda riders have thus become a law unto themselves and two-wheeled merchants of injury and death. They zoom around the narrow city streets with nary a care in the world, their passengers hanging on for dear life. They are unlicensed. They are unregulated. They are mostly uninsured.
The police have demonstrated that they can consistently – even arbitrarily – apply the law where there is financial reward, such as the clampdown on drink-driving, where motorists are made to cough up hefty fines when they finally sober up.
The police must demonstrate their ability to apply the law where the public interest is at stake. The continued lack of supervision or regulation of the motorcycle taxi industry is an unacceptable state of affairs and an indictment of the police, its political supervisors, and the Members of Parliament who are all complicit through their silence.