The passing of the Traffic and Road Safety Amendment Bill 2018 by Parliament could not have come at the right time.
The international community is readying itself for the forthcoming Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety 2020 in Sweden from February 19-20 that aims at discussing how the 10-year UN Decade for Action on Road Safety (2011-2020) can be integrated into the sustainable development goals 2030.
But many questions abound regarding the enforcement of the law. For instance, how will it reduce the high rate of road accidents that lead to an estimated 10 deaths per day in Uganda? Over time, all previous laws have had clauses on key aspects that cause road crashes, but their enforcement has been poor.
For instance, speaking on mobile phones while driving, speeding, and driving without permits, among others, are not allowed, but they continue to happen. Yet unless such practices by motorists are checked by punishing the culprits with heavy penalties, accidents will continue to occur.
The commentary by Dr Muniini Mulera titled, ‘Museveni’s attention to road safety might make a difference,’ in the Daily Monitor of January 2020, calls on the President to commit his government to address the road safety challenges.
Interestingly, this call has been made by different stakeholders across the spectrum to no avail. And this is in addition to the United Nations Country Review report on the Status of Road Safety in Uganda, 2017, which was handed to the President for action.
Key highlights and concrete recommendations were highlighted in the report, but the government hasn’t implemented any to date. There should be political commitment and resources to promote awareness about road safety in the country.
In his comment referred to above, Dr Mulera says “whereas radio stations are still effective avenue for sensitisation, police fear to go on radio because of their creditability deficit. They would receive embarrassing questions from listeners. The officer does not hold out much hope in the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra).”
One person who was confident would change the narrative about Uganda’s insecure roads is the President. “If Museveni picked up interest in road safety, you would see results.”
This is true. The increase in better road infrastructure comes at a cost to the taxpayer, who foot the huge medical bill in billions of shillings to cater for road accident victims annually hence, its constraint on the country’s GDP. This also scares away potential tourists.
My appeal to the President is that as the amendments become law, the country must commit to address all the bottlenecks that hinder achievement of zero deaths on our roads by the year 2020 at the end of the UN Decade for Action on Road Safety.
The bad side to it is that if no attention is taken towards achieving road safety, the likely outcomes will slow down the country’s move to achieve middle income status by 2040 as well as the Sustainable Development Boals by 2030.
Freddie K Kiapi,