Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Traffic police has raised concern over the increasing incidents of people driving while speaking on their mobile phones. Assistant Superintendent of Police Faridah Nampiima, the traffic police spokesperson, said every day the number of drivers using their phone while driving is increasing on the roads and this has increased crashes because of divided attention.
Nampiima says 382 drivers have been arrested speaking on phones in the last two weeks. This number has increased by more than 100 percent compared to 172 who were arrested two weeks earlier.
Road safety campaigners, among them Sam Bambanza the executive director Hope for Victims of Traffic Accidents (HOVITA), Peter Tibigambwa the executive director Safe Way Right Way (SWRW) and Joseph Komakech Ojambo, the executive director Responsible Divers Uganda, have severally cited distractions among the causes of road crashes. Top of the distractions is speaking on mobile phone while driving, WhatSapping while driving or watching music or tiktok videos while cruising.
Police say much as they have intensified operations against traffic offenders, they cannot be everywhere. From January 15 to 28, traffic police arrested a total of 28,795 offenders. These include 2,854 who were recklessly driving, 3,732 had vehicles in dangerous mechanical condition, 823 were speeding and 1,010 were not wearing seatbelts.
Nampiima said as police officers they can arrest or penalize only those they manage to see abusing road regulations. She however noted that there are many offenders who will go undetected and thus exposing passengers and other road users to crashes.
“Why do passengers in a bus, a taxi or motorcycle see a driver speaking on phone or enjoying a meal while driving and they opt to remain silent?” she wonders. “It is after a crash has happened that passengers start narrating how the driver was speaking on phone, speeding or eating while driving.”
Nampiima said 134 people have died in road crashes in the last two weeks. In addition, 564 who survived with nasty injuries are being treated in various hospitals. The biggest number of victims of both fatalities and injuries are pedestrians and Bodaboda riders. Bodaboda riders are being condemned for riding recklessly, overtaking at dangerous road points, not wearing crash helmets, riding while drunk or taking alcohol in sachets.
Hussein Sebalamu, a Bodaboda rider said many of his colleagues have failed to heed to safety instruction. Sebalamu said if all Bodaboda riders and their passengers isolated those who violate road rules, it would increase safety on roads. Sebalamu questions why a passenger would sit on a Bodaboda whose rider is drunk or shabbily dressed.
Meanwhile police have said the operation against Bodaboda riders without driving licenses won’t stop until everyone had acquired one.
Siraje Mutyaba, the Kampala central Bodaboda leader said they are supporting police in its operations because they have spent several years encouraging Bodaboda riders to get driving licenses.