By Bob Roberts Katende
Road accidents continued to plague the travelling public throughout the year and so did the blame games as to who is responsible for this carnage.
In the region, Uganda ranks highest with road fatalities at 160 deaths per 1000 vehicles per year. Neighbouring Kenya’s road deaths stand at 51 per 10,000 while South Africa is at 26 and Britain at two. What is surprising to note is that the measures to curb these high rates, are decimal. Statistics from Police indicate that from January to date, over to 2,000 have been killed in road accidents this year. In 2006, 2,838 while those killed in 2007 totalled 2,035.
Nonetheless, the Minister of Transport has continued to assure Ugandans that the poor roads that are blamed for the increase in road accidents will be a thing of the past in the near future. The near future however seems elusive to many Ugandans as the death toll from accidents continues surging. Completion dates on many major roads like the Northern Bypass, Jinja-Bujiri highways are still pending.
Police also blame the non-deterrent laws. It says many drivers are just cautioned especially those found driving under the influence of alcohol. Police says Shs 5,000 fine for a driver who knocks dead a person out of carelessness will not make others think about their actions.
Besides that, the minister continues to blame the police for failing to enforce some of the existing traffic laws. Yet the commissioner in charge of traffic police, Steven Kasima said that its the Ministry of Transport that has failed the police in their efforts to curb traffic crime. He gives an example of the seat belt regulation and speed governors that were suspended by the minister. The minister acknowledged this in an interview with The Independent that: Uganda is still poor; most of the cars that are imported are not passenger vans so they lack factory made seat belts that meet the requirements. Police blames the minister for succumbing to populism by pulling stops to their efforts to enforce this law that contributes to accidents.
Police urges the reinstatement of punitive clauses especially clauses 107-111 of the 1998 Traffic and Road Safety Act that prescribes huge fines of between Shs 1.2 and Shs 1.8m for causing bodily harm to a person through carelessness. They say such clauses that were suspended by the minister would make drivers think about their actions like overtaking at blind bends.
Some measures have been put in place this year to reduce the number of accidents like the institution of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to try and fix all national roads in the country,wideneing of black spots, etc but this isnt enough, many observers say.