Identify causes of road carnage

Thursday August 22 2019

 

By Edward Kanyesigye

On August 9, 2012, I wrote the following article: “Death on our Roads, An Emerging Epidemic.” It was about the wastage of life due to road traffic accidents (RTAs) on Uganda’s roads.

In it, I chronicled several accidents on Ugandan trunk roads (east, west, north, south and central), which had occurred in the immediate past one week. It also sampled but a few of the very precious and highly productive Ugandan souls, which had perished in this carnage.

News in the last one week again does show that the death toll on our roads is increasing as a result of major RTAs, which occur almost daily. We have just been treated to the gruesome one in Rubirizi District, where people died in an inferno following the collision of a fuel tanker with several parked vehicles and into shop buildings. We read about this coach (bus), this trailer, this boda-boda or sadly our hapless pedestrians.

Our memories are still fresh with the innocent pilgrims who perished in one such incident (no longer accidents) near our border with Kenya.

It is always amazing that one case of Ebola can keep everybody on their toes and yet five fatal RTAs will just be reported on as other news and the casualties reported on extra statistics. As I set out to write this article, I found the article referred to above still relevant and allow me to quote from it viz:-

The causes of road- traffic accidents broadly fall into two categories: Those caused by human errors of commission or omission and those due to the environment. There is a lot that campaigns can do to reduce those due to human errors, which include speeding, drink driving, overtaking in bends and against continuous lines, using your mobile phone while driving, lack of concentration ranging from excessive thoughts to sleeping while driving, and laxity among enforcement agencies, especially traffic police.

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The environmental factors are slippery road surface, difficult terrain characterised by too many sharp bends or even a very long stretch of smooth straight roads, narrow roads, absence of multiple lanes on motorways, and poor road design. Causes due to the vehicle such as tyre burst, and failed brakes or broken suspensions. There are also causes due to natural calamities such as floods, landslides and broken bridges.

However many campaigns you conduct, there will always be residual accidents since human behaviour is usually impossible to control. But these would be negligible. Many injury prevention experts, therefore, usually concentrate on policies and interventions to modify the environment as this have a great impact. For example, now that the 40-km Kampala-Entebbe road has been converted from a one-way to a dual carriage (with oncoming traffic in a different lane from the return road), the incidence of fatal accidents on the road should be greatly reduce as many such accidents involve head-on collisions between vehicles travelling in opposite directions.

Therefore, it is little wonder that countries which have invested more in making their roads more user-friendly (even when experiencing a higher traffic density), may experience a lower death toll on their roads than those whose roads are just basic. It is ironical that as the roads improve from gravel to tarmac surface and as the pot holes get filled, the users tend to speed, which results in accidents.

Dr Edward Kanyesigye,
Eekanyesigye@ucu.ac.ug

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