Role of passengers in preventing road crashes

It is the passengers’ responsibility to warn the driver if  they are over speeding to slow down. PHOTO BY PROMISE TWINAMUKYE

What you need to know:

Before boarding a motorcycle, if you realise that the rider is drunk, it is safer not to use it. If it has no side mirrors or the rider has no helmet, do not use it.

Approximately two weeks ago, social media was awash with a video clip of a Link Bus driver who was recorded by a passenger texting while driving. The driver was intercepted by traffic police authorities on Hoima Road and arrested. 

While he was suspended by the company he worked for, he was also charged with driving while using a hand mobile phone.  

Micheal Kananura, the public relations officer of the traffic directorate, says the bravery of the passenger who recorded and shared a video of the reckless driver best explains how road safety is everyone’s responsibility at a time when Uganda loses approximately 10 people per day in road accidents.

The traffic police has challenges in technology to monitor all traffic violations on all roads on road cameras. There is also a challenge in human resource where traffic personnel are limited in numbers and cannot be everywhere all the time.

“Passengers in public and private vehicles shoul monitor some of the traffic violations and reckless behaviour such as speeding or driving while eating exhibited by your driver that may endanger your life. Report to traffic police toll free number 0800 199 099. When you keep quiet, it is you who will die at the end of the day, not the traffic officers who you believe should be on the road,” Kananura says.

“If you have a smartphone, record some of the careless behaviour that can be used as evidence. And before you board a public service vehicle no matter where you are going, write down its number plate and the road you are using to make it easier to track down the vehicle. Wherever road crashes occur, there is always signage to warn the driver either to slow down or drive cautiously because they may overtake carelessly or be speeding beyond the speed limit,” Kananura adds.

Jemimah Nalumansi, a road safety advocate and occasional public vehicle passenger advises that if the worst comes to the worst and you have no way of reporting to traffic police, ask the driver politely to stop and end your journey with them. This will not necessarily prevent the crash from happening but you who left the vehicle will survive in case of an accident.

“I normally ask the driver to slow down when speeding. Sometimes I discuss and agree with a few passengers to threaten the driver to disembark from their vehicle if they do not change their driving ways. Not all passengers will agree with you but be bold enough to stand your ground. There will be those who will be happy with the driver’s speed and forget that they may not reach their destination because of the driver’s recklessness,” Nalumansi explains.

When motorists are caught in the wrong, they are stopped by traffic officers to penalise them. If they bribe their way out, Kananura urges passengers to report them using the toll free line.

“It is money exchanging hands at the expense of your life. Do not think when you report, you will not be helped. There is evidence where video clips have been used to penalise motorists and we can only get such information from passengers,” Kananura says.

Care for other passengers

Apart from reporting to traffic police about reckless drivers, you can also remind fellow passengers to wear seat belts, offer to text or answer the driver’s call if they do not find a safe space to park and pick the call themselves.

It is also recommended to keep children calm and out of the driver’s way. If it is bad weather that affects the driver’s road visibility, it is safer to ask them to stop by the roadside until it is safer to continue with the journey.

Motorcycle passengers

Whereas the risk of traffic violations such as speeding and overtaking are high with vehicles, they are higher and riskier and more life threatening when it comes to using motorcycles.

It is a common practice for motorcyclists to ride on the oncoming traffic during rush hours to avoid traffic jam.

Also, when traffic police mount operations targeting motorcyclists without helmets and riding permits, they (motorcyclists) in most cases receive signals from colleagues about checkpoints. This prompts them to carelessly make U-turns and ride either from the wrong lanes or where they think it is safe.

Kananura urges passengers not to just look on as the motorcyclist dodges vehicles anyhow. Sometimes they want to overtake but when it is clearly not safe especially when there is an oncoming vehicle.

He says, “Ask them to slow down because the rider may be at risk of being knocked by a vehicle at traffic lights or junctions where they tend to be impatient.”

Assess the rider and motorcycle

Unlike motorists, if, before boarding a motorcycle, if you realise that the rider is drunk, it is safer not to use it. Better still is that as a passenger, you are better placed to assess the mechanical condition of the motorcycle before getting on it. If it has no side mirrors or the rider has no helmet, do not use it because the rider is not able to see vehicles that are behind the motorcycle.

“If you have to be somewhere and the swift means to get you there is a motorcycle, plan your journey and start moving early,” Nalumansi warns.

Common causes

According to a report by the Uganda Police released in July this year, the common causes of road accidents include;

Speeding and exceeding prescribed speed limits, careless overtaking maneuvers, oertaking on blind corners and hills, attempting overtaking maneuvers when faced with multiple vehicles ahead, distracted driving, such as using mobile phones or messaging while operating a vehicle and road obstruction caused by broken-down vehicles.