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Why so many accidents on Ugandan roads?

The accident scene in Kasese early thins month. Five vehicles were involved. PHOTO @UgandaRedCross

COMMENT | Samson Tinka |  Recent police accident figures are alarming.  At least 2,634 pedestrians and cyclists are killed on Uganda roads every year according to the Traffic Police records for the last four years.

Figures on fatalities between 2016 and 2019 shows 10,537 pedestrians and riders were knocked dead in urban areas, highways and village roads.

This means seven pedestrians and cyclists were killed in accidents each day. The figures show 6,210 of the victims are pedestrians followed by motorcyclists at 3,651 and cyclists at 676.

A breakdown of the police traffic report shows that 1,485 pedestrians died in 2019, 1,424 in 2018, 1,384 in 2017 and 1,319 in 2016. This can be attributed to so many factors,

Just recently, ten people were confirmed dead and over 33 critically injured in a road accident February 2 at Kanyansi between Hima and Rugendabala on the Kasese – Fort portal Road.

The Police together with the team from the Red Cross Society responded to the scene immediately. Different people including police have since attributed this accident to different causes, including carelessness at various levels.

These include:

· Un safe practices of road contractors

· Drivers general conduct

· Over loading of both private, public vehicles

· Deficiency in supervisory roles by UNRA

· Lack of critical road signs and warnings

· Vehicles on roads being poor mechanical conditions

· Bad weather conditions

· Failure by police to enforce road discipline

· Theft and vandalism of road hardware

The Kasese accident

The cause of the Kasese accident was attributed to pouring of marram soil on the one side of the road, without warning signs placed before this point to alert drivers of this obstacle.

This is a very careless act that led to death of innocent souls if we are to go with this narrative.

If this act was as a result of failure by contractor to place warnings, then the contractor should be held responsible. I have personally observed deficiencies in placing warning signs alerting drivers and riders of road works in progress. It’s very common in Kampala and other areas.

In the last one month, a lot of road repairs have been happening in Kampala especially its suburbs. On rare occasions will you find sufficient warning signs.

Warning signs should be placed in a distance that will assist the driver to reduce speed and approach the area under construction at relatively low speed, the signs should be readable, placed in a visible area, speed bumps elected, signs should be reflective for night vision etc. This unfortunately is not happening.

If at all some signage’s are there, they are of poor quality and can hardly serve any meaningful purpose. From PPE for workers, to warning signs, timing of works makes the whole safety on road construction hugely compromised.

Careless drivers

Drivers have also contributed heavily to the accident figures. You can daily observe drivers over speeding, driving on wrong lanes, keeping right, overtaking on bends, phone driving in the city centre and on the highways. Misuse of roads by both private and government vehicles is the order of the day. It is painful.

Overloading of both light cars and heavy trucks also contributes immensely to road carnage. It’s even worse in some districts where passengers are loaded together with their merchandise on non PSVs.

Some districts like Lira, its common on a market day to see Fuso and tipper trucks fully loaded with hundreds of passengers with their language. This kind of arrangement is risky to their lives and their goods.

No insurance company will even compensate such people loaded in such style. What shocks most is that these trucks pass traffic police mounted road blocks. How, my guess is as good as yours.

Where is UNRA?

UNRA has a share of blame to shoulder as supervisor of road contractors. One area to critically look out for is safety measures put in place on every construction site.

In fact contractors should be disqualified due to failure to adhere to safety guidelines. Some contractors should even be blacklisted if they are repetitive offenders of un safe practices in any running road contract. One area that this country that is less appreciated is safety.

Quite a number developers are mindless on safety requirements on site. In fact safety is an area often UN budgeted for during the preliminary project BOQs development.

The situation is not helped by the hundreds of DMCs on Ugandan roads. To confirm this board any taxi to Busabala, Masanafu, Kyebando, Kasokokso etc and you will bring back the testimonies.

The vehicles used lack the basics including lights, reflectors, and indicators, number plates etc. Imagine a car without a number plate on the road. It’s a shame. Traffic officers have also sadly failed to crack the whip.

Some accidents can also be attributed to bad weather conditions especially during heavy rain and early morning fog. But these two can be managed if the driver exhibit discipline and patience.

We appreciate traffic officers’ efforts but a lot can be done to control indiscipline on the roads.

It’s sickening to see cars with private number plates driving on one way, throwing other road users into trenches, putting on sirens, right in front of police officers.

What the traffic police needs is the kind of Seeta police officer who stopped Gen Kyaligonza. We need police officers who won’t bend low on traffic rules irrespective of the drivers or car occupants’ social status. We already have good Generals like Gen Katumba, Gen Ivan Koreta who have continuously used roads in a fair and orderly manner, and should be an example.

Road signage stolen

Ugandans also continue to vandalize road signs and other hardware which hitherto supports road usage and guide drivers on road safety.

These chaps have also contributed to the raod mess the country is experiencing.

A look at the Entebbe Expressway shows the level at which road materials are vandalized by scrap sellers, The whole team that is in the scrap business ecosystem should be dealt with especially those found with stuff from the roads.

Other human activities like crazing of cattle, goats, stray dogs crossing, drunk pedestrians on the road are other contributors to road accidents but on a minimum scale.

Finally the road accident figures are bad, and requre multiple interventions from both UNRA, Uganda Police, drivers, road contractors.

The common denominator contributing to accidents in Uganda is largely a human one especially indiscipline while on the road, failure to adhere to best safety principles by all players but mostly contractors among others.

Let’s appreciate safety yesterday, today, and tomorrow and safety always. Why should one survive COVID-19 and die of reckless driving? The Kasese accident it now seems, was mainly a result of human error. Let’s not die of accidents in circumstances that are avoidable if everyone plays their part.

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 Samson Tinka is a safety and security expert | tindsam@yahoo.com

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