We need to plug loopholes to reduce road accidents

State Minister for Works Musa Ecweru (left) talks to a team of forensic experts at Fort Portal Police Station. PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA 

What you need to know:

The issue: Road accidents.

Our view: The laws have to be enforced to ensure that all road users abide by the guidelines. All cars must be road worthy, driven within the speed limits and by people licenced to drive them.

Ten years ago, early 2012 to be precise, the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) imposed a ban on four bus companies following a series of road accidents.

The ban on Kaliita Transporters Limited, Zawadi Bus Services, Kampala Hopper and Kasamba Bus Services were lifted after a heated meeting between then Transport minister Abraham Byandala and more than 100 bus owners. The ban had resulted in the proprietors parking their buses, claims of victimisation by TLB, a move that paralysed transport countrywide.

In July 2018, government suspended the license for Gaagaa Bus Company for a month over a number of fatal accidents, including the one in Kiryandongo District in which more than 20 people died.

This week, government grounded 90 Link buses following a fatal Wednesday morning accident outside Fort Portal Town that claimed more than 20 lives. Initial investigations suggest the accident was caused after the driver lost control after overtaking a trailer at high speed at a bend.

The latest accident highlights a problem that has bedevilled our transport sector for ages. Most times witness testimonies point towards speeding, or cars that are in poor mechanical conditions.

Over the years, government introduced route charts for buses to make sure that only qualified people drive buses. It was also meant to ensure that drivers are changed on long routes for buses that make return journeys on the same day. Along the way, the measures, including mandatory speed governors and seatbelts for passengers, were either relaxed or abandoned.

According to police, over the last five years, at least 3,500 people have died on Ugandan roads every year, while close to 10,000 have narrowly escaped with severe injuries. The Fort Portal accident is a wakeup call. All stakeholders must come together and ensure that we reduce accidents of this magnitude on our roads.

To the bus owners who have always stood in solidarity with their colleagues whose licences have been suspended, put lives ahead of money. Make sure that the buses are in good mechanical condition and well serviced. You too do lose when your buses are destroyed in accidents.

To the drivers, the lives of the tens of passengers you are carrying are in your hands. They have dependants, responsibilities and dreams that could be ended in an instance because of your poor judgement. Please be in the right health and state of mind before seating behind that steering wheel.

And finally to the authorities, the laws have to be enforced to ensure that all road users abide by the guidelines. All cars must be road worthy, driven within the speed limits and by people licensed to drive them. We have lost many people for far too long. We can reduce carnage on the roads.

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