In June 2019, the Uganda Police traffic directorate and the ministry of Works and Transport went digital. A new electronic express penalty scheme (EPS) was introduced to track motorists who default on payment of traffic fines after committing traffic offences.
These replaced the physical hard paper traffic forms that captured your number plate and were substituted by the express penalty system that captures your driving permit number.
Similarly, the recording of road crashes or accidents has also gone digital under the digital road crash data system.
According to Olive Kobusingye, the principal investigator on the Collaboration for Evidence-Based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa, (CEBHA) project of Makerere University School of Public Health that developed the system, a traffic police officer goes on the road with a mobile application installed on the phone.
Instead of filling in the crash data form manually, the traffic officer instead enters the information or data electronically in a mobile phone that has the capability to work offline even if its mobile data is turned off and when the GPS is offline, to still submit the information.
If a crash involves your car, the inspectorate of vehicles (IOV) also feeds the system with researched details such as the condition and nature of the vehicle after inspecting it (vehicle) to add their findings to the records of the field submitting officer. The officer at the control or data centre at Naguru where the data centre will be stationed will then be able to access information of a complete submitted record.
“From the back end of the system, the regional traffic commander or officer in charge can access the records that include the road name, road number, collision type, district, town or village, crash place, crash severity, crash date and the Global Positioning System (GPS) location, among other key details,” Kobusingye says.
According to Kobusingye, instead of waiting for a whole year to know the number of road crashes, the system allows traffic police to select a period, say the month of March or any other month to find out what transpired as far as road crashes are concerned. This, Kobusingye emphasises, will ease traffic police report generation.
“Where an officer has to go to the accident or crash scene, they are able to get vital statistics at the click of a button,” she adds.
According to Kobusingye, the system has the capability to eliminate errors and inaccuracies in recording and reporting because of check-ins.
“If a traffic officer is filling in a hard copy paper, they may omit relevant details such as a road accident victim’s name or their gender because it may not be required. In this system, they cannot flip to the next page or observation before filling in every detail,” Kobusingye explains.
For timely news reporting, the system also increases reporting speed. For instance, if a crash happens in Kaabong District and the data collecting officer is using paper and the officer at the police headquarters in Naguru needs to have a record of the crash on time, they will either call the officer on ground or put the records on bus to transport them to Kampala.
This takes a lot of time and comes with risks because there would be no guarantee that the hard copy papers will reach their destination. Now approximately one year old, the digital crash data system was piloted in six districts of Kampala, Mbale, Sironko, among others for four months in 2019.
The system will be helpful in rectifying timeliness in reporting but also show the exact place the accident happened. For instance, if an accident happens on Jinja Road, the system will specifically and clearly indicate that an accident happened at, say, Uganda Management Institute because of the GPS location guidance instead of zeroing down on Jinja Road as a whole. This could otherwise be omitted on paper.
The system will also rectify missing variables such as gender and the condition of the victim, which is mostly skipped when using hard copy paper. The system will also record everything in its entirety because it does not allow a traffic officer on the ground to go on before filling in the preceding questions.
Identifying black spots
Charles Ssebambulidde, the spokesperson of the traffic directorate observes that the GPS provision in the digital road crash data system will also help in identifying black spots that would be communicated to the public. The system will also record all traffic crashes, including motorcycle crashes.
“When the system records a particular point as a crash scene a number of times, it will guide the traffic directorate and other responsible authorities about accident or crash preventing measures and mechanisms such as erecting of humps and other road signage. These interventions will in the long run prevent crashes from happening,” Ssebambulidde explains.