By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Police point at cycle of accidents peaking between July and New Year
On October 26 presidential advisor on Religious Affairs Albert Byaruhanga died when his car knocked two pedestrians at Kyanda on Mubende Mityana road leaving one dead.
In the same week, on October 21 two people died when their car plunged into River Mpanga after colliding with a trailer in Fort Portal town. The accident occurred at 5 am. Police say the couple had just left a pub.Â A week earlier, on October 11, the leader of opposition in parliament, Prof. Ogenga Latigo, survived an accident that killed his driver and a passenger. This accident too occurred at night. Their car collided head-on with a bus.
Two weeks earlier, on September 27, a bus had plunged into a valley on the Kanungu-Rukungiri road in western Uganda killing seven and injuring at least 50. According to police, the driver lost control of the bus.
These three accidents appear to confirm findings of a World Bank funded Road Safety Audit that blamed 80% of accidents in Uganda on human error.
The report blamed driver incompetence, ignorance, and recklessness. It attributed such bad driver behavior to drunken driving, lack of training, inconsiderate road use, and inadequate enforcement of laws on speeding, vehicle maintenance, over-loading, and absence of road signs.
However, while these factors contribute, the cyclical nature of road accidents has not been factored in. Police statistics show that as the year ends, accidents tend to peak in Uganda as in most places around the world. And the omens for this year are not any good.
Already, records at the Central Police Station this year indicate a monthly rise in accidents. In July a total of 998 accidents were recorded and the number shot to 1045 in August but slightly reduced to 959 in September. In these three months alone 105 lives were lost to accidents. The half year accidents figures paint even a grim picture putting it at 5,748 and the number of the dead at 220.
The Metropolitan Kampala Traffic Police boss James Wakooli says as the year ends people become excited, buy and drive their dream vehicles and in the process vehicles become many on the way thereby increasing incidences of accidents. Most of these private vehicle drivers have not had enough driving lessons, others are still excited about driving newly acquired vehicles, yet others do not properly interpret road signs. No wonder that statistics show that private vehicles are involved in the largest number of accidents.
Buses are the other category involved in most accidents. Last year from March 27 to July 28, buses were involved in accidents that left 17 people dead and over 80 seriously injured. But in just one week this year, from May 7 to May 13, buses involved in accidents left 30 people dead.Â The most fatal accident was on May 12 when a speeding Gateway bus rammed into a taxi on the Tirinyi highway in Iganga, killing 13 people. The same day, a bus belonging to Uganda Grace Coaches overturned on the Juba-Kampala road, 100km from Nimule leaving at least 11 people dead.Â The frenzy starts early between July and December and peaks during the festive season of Christmas and New Year.
Christmas season involves a lot of travel across the country. Wakooli says accidents peak at this time because people are rushing to reach home to meet with their family members whom they probably will not have seen for the bigger part of the year.
TheÂ police commissioner of traffic Basil Mugisha says end of year accidents get more attention because people get perplexed that a road accident death has denied someone the chance to complete the year. He says, however, that as the year ends it should be made clear that it is everyoneâ€™s responsibility to fight road accident occurrence.
â€œMany people unfortunately think itâ€™s the role of the police to prevent accidents, â€œhe said in an interview, â€œThe responsibility starts with the driver, and cyclist then the passengers and the police. The sad thing is when we find a driver over speeding and passengers begin to plead on his behalf and complain we are delaying yet it is their lives we are protecting from reckless drivers.â€
He says that in a bid top cope with the increasing traffic and accidents the traffic police has had its personnel increased from 300 to 1,060 officers and procured more equipment in a move to curb road accidents.