Monday October 29 2012

We must end the road massacres

By Editorial

Thirteen people are feared dead after a trailer collided with a commuter taxi on Saturday night near Mubende. Their families and friends will grieve for a long time but the rest of the country will soon move on.

They will soon become statistics, a footnote to the death that lurks on our roads, but a statistic that should shame and worry us all. Some 2,620 people were killed on our roads in 2010, up from 2,388 the year before, according to police reports. Other reports put the figure significantly higher.

A total of 22,461 accidents were recorded on our roads in 2010, compared to 7,895 in Kenya, which has a bigger road network and significantly more vehicles.
Simply put, our roads are some of the most dangerous in the world and they get worse every year.

We can – and must – do something about the carnage on our roads. Here are three quick things the government can do immediately.

First, let us ban the importation of cars that are 10 years and older and subject all vehicles to an annual roadworthiness inspection. This will help keep junk off our roads and encourage motorists to maintain their cars in good order.

The second thing to do is to reform the driver qualification process, which is currently corrupt to the core. According to the Uganda National Roads Authority, eight out of every 10 accidents are due to human error. So let us subject every driver to new physical, theoretical and practical skills tests to ensure that only safe and certified drivers are allowed onto our roads.

Finally, let us enforce the laws and regulations we already have on our books. The current police practice, of sporadic and episodic enforcement of rules, from seat belts to triangles, speed governors to reflectors, must be brought to an end.

The traffic police section must be broken up and rebuilt with better-paid, better-motivated officers able and willing to consistently enforce the law.

Road traffic accidents kill more people in Uganda each year than terrorism or war combined. We should expend as much energy checking cars as we do checking bags and spend as much money too.

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