Traffic police should quickly work on president’s directives

25Nov 2021
The Guardian
Traffic police should quickly work on president’s directives

ROAD safety is still a hill to climb, on the basis of figures on accidents comparing the past two years that were issued by the traffic police commander, ACP Wilbrod Mutafungwa.

Hardly anyone was surprised to hear that motorcycle taxis lead in the rate of accidents and fatalities, followed by individual saloon car drivers, then larger vehicles like buses and lorries, and finally commuter bus drivers. It is fairly easy to see that the size of a vehicle isn’t the most substantial factor but the scale of responsibility is noticeable.

There were some rather disagreeable elements in the traffic police report to inaugurate the national road safety week, one of which was a proposal rejected by President Samia Suluhu Hassan about half of fines paid by erring motorists be used to uplift controls technologically speaking. The president aired the view that this would provide motivation for fining motorists to reach a specific cash objective, which is at odds with objectives of good governance. Another element was less visible, that fewer accidents was the work of hands, saying authorities managed to avoid this or that number of accidents, as if policy is what did it.

For once, the presentation did plenty of work on the education side of things, which the president similarly emphasised, pointing a finger at reaching out to motorcycle taxi drivers first and foremost, not generalized instruction to motorists as a whole.  At one point the president remarked that checking vehicles by going underneath and actually examining whatever it is – usability of this or that piece of machinery – was outdated, insisting on using improved vehicle inspection systems. That was the first ideal the president issued as a directive: to work with the private sector to finance these improvements.

What the president essentially suggested in the list of instructions towards the end of her remarks was the need for the police to take a preventive outlook on accidents rather than a reactive approach. The president said that the traffic police department (or specifically the National Road Safety Council) should sit with private sector stakeholders and figure out how to go about this. This might not be forthcoming too easily as traffic controls and procedures are seen as police prerogative, not where they are part of a team.

Looking into some issues as to prevention rather than catching drivers in speed, fining them or just counting fatalities and wounded in case there is a crash, some preliminary measures are possible. We need to take a realistic view of the situation that many drivers aren’t civic enough in their outlook to take due care not to cause harm to themselves and others on the roads, if we leave out carelessness of pedestrians as another unavoidable circumstance. Instead of more cameras and traffic police presence, it is vital for TanRoads and REA to design rough road patches that compel motorists to slow down; more bumps when areas of dense population or activity are approached. It can be done.