Deaths and disabilities due to road accidents cause misery to affected families, let alone negative social and economic impacts to the nation. In this article Staff Writer QUEENTER MAWINDA discusses the Traffic Department’s efforts to curb them in the context of a UN General Assembly Resolution to reduce crash fatality by 50 per cent in 2020.
On a recent afternoon Sharif Hassan (changed name), a resident of Dar es Salaam’s Kimara suburb, drove home after his day’s work unaware of tragedy he was about to encounter.
Cruising at 80 kilometre per hour, he bumped against the back of a bus that had suddenly stopped, and injured his hip and ribs. He ended up at the Muhimbili National Hospital, narrowly escaping death.
In Tanzania, ranked among countries with most unsafe roads, every year thousands of people like Sharif are involved in accidents, many of them fatal.
For example, at least 2,945 people were killed in 17,461 road accidents that occurred between January and September this year.
The National Traffic Commander Mohammed Mpinga mentions reckless driving, excessive speed, overtaking errors, negligence of drivers and alcohol above blood level of 0.05g/100ml as the major causes of accidents on Tanzanian roads.
Others are defective vehicles, non-durable tyres, defective brakes and loose wheel nuts as well as environmental factors like poor road conditions, bad surfaces.
He also affirms absence of road traffic signs and markings, a condition that confuses drivers with regard to direction or speed limitation, especially at road curvatures.
Stakeholders say the enormity of wastage of national resources in road accidents is compelling and call for stern measures to stop it.
According to experts, road safety is a result of good programmes coupled with political will and priority towards alleviation of accidents, adequate organisation and sufficient budgets.
In March 2010 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution, calling for Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 with several pillars.
The pillars are safer road and mobility, road safety management, safer vehicle, safer road user and post clash response to address the global burden of fatalities and injuries resulting from road crashes.
Responding to this resolution, UN member states including Tanzania are prioritising resources allocation aimed at reducing the road crash fatality rate by 50 percent in 2020.
For implementation of the pillars Mpinga says: “In order to produce positive road safety outcomes, strong management in all aspects of road safety is required.
“The safe system approach is seen as the most appropriate approach in guiding the management of road safety,” he explains.
A key part of it requires the road system to be designed, taking account of the errors and vulnerabilities to enable road users to avoid serious injury or death on the road.
Safer road and mobility is the second pillar that incorporates several activities related to sustainable urban transport and urban development. It also considers the increasing role of cities for improving road safety.
Safer road user is about setting and enforcing laws that require the use of seat-belts, helmets and child restraints as well as setting and enforcing blood alcohol concentration limits for drivers.
Safety features of vehicles, promoting public transport, effective speed management and use of traffic-calming measures is another aspect of these pillars.
The finally there is prevention of the road traffic injuries by improving post-crash care for victims of road crashes.
According to Mpinga, other strategies with measurable targets used to tackle unsafe road challenges are crucial components of a sustainable response to road safety.
Smarter Traffic Programme was initiated to improve road safety in Tanzania by providing education on traffic regulations to curb road accidents.
On the other hand the Junior Patrol Programne aims at helping pupils to cross the road safely.
Twelve Dar es Salaam-based based primary schools were implementing the programme.
According to Mpinga the strategies have brought about positive outcome, significantly reducing death toll, which is the result of rising awareness of road users on traffic rules and regulations.
“Access to road user education enables road users to be instructed on the Highway Code and to be aware of the law and community agreed protocol requiring them how to behave on the road.”
Public campaigns play an important role in the enforcement of legislative measures, by increasing awareness of risks and of the penalties associated with breaking the law.
The road safety week campaign administered by the traffic police department in collaboration with TANROADS has brought a positive impact in curbing road accidents.
Education should focus on conveying information about rules and procedures. Training provides drivers with skills, which are then rehearsed again and again in the traffic stream.
On the prevailing scenario in Tanzania, Mpinga says: “TOYO and bodaboda motor cycles that are involved in most accidents, it is largely because of lack of knowledge of traffic laws and regulations”
So far this year the death toll associated with boda boda alone is expected to be about 720; not taking into cases of deaths that occurred following in accidents involving other vehicles.
The pressure by the owners on the operators to meet their daily targets could be a reason for reckless driving that contributed to high casualty rates.
Safety measures need to be undertaken by the traffic police, including conducting frequent inspection of motor vehicles to ascertain their roadworthiness and to restrict defective vehicles being in use.
However, police vehicle inspection is visual examination for lack of inspection equipment. Additionally, owners rarely repair their vehicles - another factor leading to traffic accidents.
The road safety education programme should be extended throughout the country with detailed instruction as well as making road safety a compulsory part of the curriculum in all schools.
A comprehensive programme of education, starting with the very young and extending progressively through to university graduates and industrial or commercial trainees could be worked out in this regard.
In neighbouring Kenya where 3,000 people are reported to be killed annually due to reckless driving a new legislation is being introduced for heavy penalties on traffic offenders.
Tanzania could consider taking similar measures to end the carnage on its roads.