“More people now die as a result of road traffic injuries than from HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and diarrhoea,” says the 2018 World Health Organisation Global Status Report on Road Safety in its first chapter, titled, The Global Burden of Road Traffic Death.
With an average rate of 27.5 deaths per 100,000 population, the report says the risk is more than three times higher in low income countries than in high income countries where the average rate is 8.3 deaths per 100,000 population. The burden of road traffic deaths is disproportionately high among low and middle income countries in relation to the size of their population and the number of vehicles in circulation.
“There has been no reduction in the number of road traffic deaths in any low income country since 2013. They (low income countries) have only one per cent of the world’s motor vehicles but 13 per cent of deaths occur in these countries,” the report adds.
The 2018 Uganda Police Annual Crime Report indicated that the accident severity index stood at 28.8. One year later, the Uganda Police Annual Crime Report 2019 that was released on April 28, 2020 indicates that the severity index is now at 30 while that of 2017 indicated that the severity index stood at 24. The reports define severity index as the number of persons killed per 100 crashes. This means that out of every 100 road crashes, 24 road users in 2017, 28 in 2018 and 30 in 2019, died respectively.
Road users killed in road crashes
Worryingly, among many of the unfortunate offences that you need to be concerned about that the 2017, 2018 and 2019 reports share in common is that pedestrians and motorcyclists constitute the biggest percentage of road crash deaths.
For instance, in 2017, 1,319 pedestrians and 918 motorcyclists were killed while 1,424 pedestrians and 878 motorcyclists were killed later in 2018. In 2019, the number of pedestrians who were killed rose to 1,485 and that of motorcyclists rose to 1,064.
Overall, in 2017, the number of people who died due to road crashes were 3,500 and 3,689 in 2018. In the latest report of 2019, 3,880 people died in road crashes, indicating a 5.2 percentage increase from 2018.
The 2017 annual police crime report indicated that a total of 10,420 people were seriously injured and those who were seriously injured in 2018 were 9,539. In 2019, those seriously injured were 9,635. All these are categorised under drivers of vehicles, motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, passengers in vehicles and pedestrians.
Why the trends are rising
Paul Kwamusi, a road safety consultant at Integrated Transport Systems Limited, argues that besides known causes of accidents such as reckless driving, poor vehicle mechanical conditions, driving under the influence of alcohol, body fatigue as well as incompetent drivers, ending accidents caused by over speeding has to begin with leaders at all levels, right from the president to the local council leaders.
For instance, on many occasions, vehicles belonging to different government ministries are driven on pavements meant to serve pedestrians. The high speed at which these government vehicles are driven is also worrying.
“When government leaders drive on pavements and at high speeds with impunity and walk away with it, they set a bad example to other motorists and motorcyclists. It becomes hard for the law enforcers to arrest the common man and let the leader get away with it,” Kwamusi explains.
According to Ronald Amanyire, the secretary of the National Road Safety Council at the Ministry of Works and Transport, heavy investment in efforts to reduce road accidents to match the number of people dying in accidents is important. Much as there are interventions such as obeying of set speed limits in different areas and avoiding driving under the influence of alcohol, the impact of such and many more regulations has not been measured.
“There is no prioritised intervention among the few that exist. Motorcyclists are still carrying two or more passengers and all these have to be addressed if the accident severity index in the country is to reduce or go to zero,” Amanyire explains.
He explains further that vehicles that are meant to be inspected annually to meet road safety standards before they go on the road is also not being done because vehicle inspection facilities such as SGS are not working as they ought to.
“Road crash trends in Uganda are still high and this calls for heavy investment in road safety by all stakeholders if we are to make a complete turnaround as far as the number of people who die in road crashes is concerned. If every major road had pedestrian facilities and pedestrians are sensitised through different medium, there would few pedestrians dying,” Amanyire says.
Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. The traffic directorate will do its part of enforcing but it will not solve the problem because it is a small component of road safety. It is all about each and every driver’s compliance with traffic rules, for instance not creating unnecessary lanes and driving within the set speed limits.
Do not drive if you are stressed or unwell
If you think you are distracted, stressed, fatigued or unwell and it will affect your judgement while driving, you should not get behind the steering wheel. Any of these can slow down your reaction time and driving in such a state is unwise.
Being overworked, stressed or tired increases the chances of you falling asleep at the wheels. If it is a long drive and you feel tired, pull over to the side of the road and sleep for a while.
It goes without saying that consumption of alcohol is a serious impediment to making the right choices and it is dangerous to drive inebriated. If you are going to a party where you are likely to consume alcohol, make sure someone who does not drink is the designated driver or arrange for a taxi. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a punishable offence, including the possibility of cancellation of your licence or even jail time.
Also, it would be safer not to drive if you are unwell. A high fever or an injury can be disorienting, resulting in an error of judgement.