More serious push needed to arrest carnage on roads

19Nov 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
More serious push needed to arrest carnage on roads

PATIENCE is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead – begging the question: why is it always that the driver behind appears to be racing and the one in front merely sightseeing?

That is what always appears in the minds of many motorists on the road, the explanation of which is hard to fathom. But patience is a rare attribute among motorists, or the volume of carnage on the roads would not be so disturbing. Unfortunately it is, and is a global phenomenon.

And that is why the world marks World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, a yearly commemoration that takes place on each third Sunday of November to acknowledge victims of road traffic crashes and their families.

The commemoration was initiated by the British road crash victim charity RoadPeace in 1993 and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005.

Road traffic crashes are a major cause of death among all age groups and the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged between five and 29 years.

The risk of dying in a road traffic crash is more than three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries.

This is precisely why the explanation then was, and remains to date, that human life is not a motor vehicle spare part that can be replaced.

The Day has since become an important tool in global efforts to reduce road casualties. It offers an opportunity for drawing attention to the scale of emotional and economic devastation caused by road crashes and for giving recognition to the suffering of road crash victims and the work of support and rescue services.

Tanzania has been making efforts to address the carnage on our roads, but without much enthusiasm or serious push from the authorities and road users alike.

So, this occasion ought to serve as a wakeup call to make the government and other stakeholders take more appropriate and effective preventive measures and remedial action.

Some 25 years ago, the government introduced the use of road speed governors on buses – including urban commuter buses. Apparently, this was out of “deep concern over the unnecessary loss of life and limb on our roads.

These gadgets, which had to be approved by the Tanzania Bureau of Standard, were supplied by government-picked agents and long queues of buses were seen at the premises of these agents waiting for their turns to fix the devices at upward of 300,000/- each.

In Dar es Salaam, commuter services were so seriously disrupted as a result that the government permitted pickups and other unlicensed vehicles to chip in by ferrying commuters.

However, it was soon realised that the TBS-approved gadgets were sub-standard in that even though they could control speed, they were not tamper-proof and “crafty” bus owners/crews could easily tinker with their mechanisms to make them ineffectual.

This meant that the gadgets hardly served any useful purpose because it called for the deployment of traffic police officers, thereby creating another avenue of corruption by the dishonest ones.

And in any case, why was it that the devices were fixed only on passenger buses while all other vehicles were also driven by human beings as likely to cause accidents leading to loss of life and limb? Food for thought, indeed.

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