Fort Portal , Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Traffic police statistics show 118 people were killed in road crashes between April 24 and May 4th. This translate into 12 people or more losing their life every day.
Of these road deaths, 28 people died on the same day of May 4th after a Link bus plunged into a tea garden in Fort Portal on its way to Kampala and others died in a crash that involved three vehicles on Tirinyi road.
At least 21 people died in the Link bus crash while seven others died in Tirinyi incident. Assistant Superintendent of Police -ASP Faridah Nampiima, who speaks for the traffic police, explains that 23 people died on two public holidays namely International Labour day on May 1st and Eid on May 2.
Nampiima further explains that 67 other people died between April 24 and April 30. This means the last six days of last month had 11 people killed in road carnage per day. These road killings are over and above the daily national road killings of 10 people per day.
Police say driving vehicles in dangerous mechanical condition, speeding, reckless driving, not wearing of seatbelts and crash helmets have been the major contributors to these gruesome road killings.
ASP Nampiima explains: “When we conduct operations against traffic offenders, you realise many people don’t wear seatbelts. People are driving DMCs. Bodaboda riders are not wearing seatbelts. For instance, in our operations of last week, we had 2,089 drivers of DMCs, we had 1,709 drivers driving recklessly, 446 were speeding, 760 were not wearing seatbelts and 606 had no crash helmets.”
Sam Bambanza, a researcher on road safety and executive director Hope for Victims of Traffic Accidents (HOVITA), believes police and other agencies like UNRA, Ministry of Works and Transport as well Ministry of Health have not done enough to prevent road crashes.
Bambanza explains that road carnage has consistently been high because post-crash investigations are always neglected. According to Bambanza, it would be impossible to reduce road crashes if the causes are not established. This, he says can only be achieved if police and other agencies are able to know whether the cause of the crash was due to road terrain, weather, vehicle condition or driver error.
“The road safety has five pillars and the last one is post-crash,” Bambanza says. Post-crash has emergency, hospitals, insurance, police investigations, judiciary and rehabilitation. That is the areas that is neglected. Without comprehensive post-crash investigation, you cannot establish or recommend what should be done to prevent a similar crash from occurring.”
Asked on whether police just give crash numbers and do little to prevent such incidents, ASP Nampiima explains that human indiscipline on the roads is what is killing Ugandans. This, Nampiima attributes to the fact that in areas where they have put checkpoints, crashes have tremendously reduced yet they were previously known as blackspots. She adds that they have noticed that gruesome crashes are happening in places where they don’t have checkpoints yet police have no capacity to be everywhere.
“Every day we lose 10 people in the road carnage,” she says. “Road checkpoints are there and we put them in places that used to be blackspots. In those places, accidents have reduced. Nowadays accidents are happening in places where we don’t have road carnage. We cannot have road checkpoints everywhere,” ASP Nampiima says.
Bambanza challenges police to provide figures of drivers who get prosecuted out of the more than 12,000 crashes recorded every year.
“We have recurrent crashes because there is no proper investigation done whenever a crash happens,” Bambanza adds. “How many drivers are prosecuted for the 12,000 crashes that occur every year? If there were post-crash investigations, we would be having very many drivers prosecuted.”
Bambanza says uninvestigated road crashes have left many people languishing in pain without anyone catering for their medical bills or compensating the victims who sustain permanent injuries. This argument is confirmed by Sonia Kyoshaba 23, condition who is currently incurring a lot of medical expenses after a recklessly overtaking vehicle in Kisaasi knocked her down when she was on a motorcycle.
Kyoshaba was knocked on May 30 last year and lost her entire right limb. She now passes out body wastes through a colostomy on her left side belly. She will be making a year at the end of this month living with horrendous pain. She explains that in this one year, the driver has never come out to contribute to her medical expenses.
“It is almost a year, I haven’t received any help from him. It has been my family and friends who have supported me in this,” Kyoshaba says. “The owner of the car I haven’t seen him. But we have a case in court. One of the family members got the car records because it remained at the scene of crash after getting a tyre puncture and it was abandoned there.”
Nampiima emphasizes: “We should talk about being disciplined on the road so that we can fight carnage. People should stop driving recklessly because it is a major cause of carnage on the road. People should reduce speeding because is a major cause of road crashes. In case someone is in the car and the driver is driving recklessly, you call us. It is everyone’s responsibility.”
Efforts to speak to Winston Katushabe, the commissioner in charge of transport were futile as he did not pick calls. However, the ministry of transport has often issued temporary bans on buses that have killed passengers in big numbers. It is not clear what such bans, the latest being on Link buses, have achieved. Previously bans were issued against Global and Gaagaa bus companies.