The menace of hit-and-run accidents on Tanzania roads

03Nov 2018
Crispin Gerald
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
The menace of hit-and-run accidents on Tanzania roads

“MY dreams are shattered...the pain is unbearable, please help me,” cried motorcycle rider Emmanuel Peter in agony when pleading with good Samaritans following a hit-and-run accident in which he was involved.

Residents from a nearby village started to gather at the accident spot. However, as Peter bled none of the gathered people seemed to offer any assistance until this writer and traffic and police officers on their way to Tanga reached the accident spot and assisted him.

This was yet another of those hit-and-run accidents which are now commonplace in the country.

On the material day, the motorbike rider had been hit by a haulage truck along the Muheza- Tanga road in Msangazi area in Tanga region.

The motorist, Peter, sustained a fractured leg and severe bruises on his body. This automatically disqualified him from joining National Service, which he was expecting to join later this year.

“This was the only source of income I had. Now I will not be able to ride the motorcycle in this condition. I won’t have the cash to repair the motorbike either,” he lamented.

Despite the accident occurring in a residential area, none of the residents bothered to offer any assistance to the victim.
Widespread problem.

Hit-and-run incidents have become too common in the area involving road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders. The accidents result from speeding, reckless riding or excessive use of alcohol.

Despite lack of statistics on hit-and-run incidents, interviewed drivers said once it happened one had to run away swiftly to save himself from the wrath of the local mobs.

Saidi Mohamed, a bus driver plying the Arusha-Tanga route, said mobs were the reason most motorists ran for their lives after a motor accident occurred.

“People at the scene of an accident normally don’t have the patience to listen explanations. Once they arrive at the scene they star beating up whoever is found at the scene without regard to who may have caused the accident,” he said.

According to him, road traffic regulations require a motorist who causes an accident to report immediately to a nearby police station.

Road accident reports in Tanzania

Statistics from the traffic police show that from January to December last year a total of 2,254 road crashes, some fatal, were reported.

The number, however, is a decrease by 586 accidents, equivalent to 20.6 per cent, over the previous year. In the same period, a total of 2,705 people died compared to 3,381 fatalities in the year 2016, a 20 per cent decrease.

The number of injured people from January to December last year was 6,169 as compared to 9,549 injured in the same period in the year 2016.

What the police say about hit-and-run incidents

Principal legal officer at the Traffic Police headquarters Deus Sokoni told The Guardian in Dar es Salaam recently that the law directs every driver who causes a road accident to report to a nearby police station immediately.

“Causing an accident does not mean the driver or the victim is guilty of an offence, but that will be established after the police examine the cause of the incident,” he said.

Section 57 of the Road Traffic Act of 1973 provides that “where an accident arising directly or indirectly from the use of a motor vehicle or trailer, occurs to any person or to any motor vehicle or trailer or to any other property, the driver of the motor vehicle or trailer shall stop if, having regard to all the circumstances, it is safe for him to do so and shall ascertain whether any person has been injured, in which event it shall be his duty to render all practicable assistance to the injured person.”

According to Sokoni, when a driver runs away means that he or she disobeys the law and it is an offence, but some drivers run away for fear of being lynched by angry citizens, but they later report to a police station.

Sokoni cited an example of a truck driver who hit Peter, saying he was later caught and booked for the accident.

Situation of road accidents in Tanzania

Road safety is still one of the serious problems worldwide, especially in developing countries such as Tanzania.
However, the Tanzania government has made a strong commitment to deal with road safety issues by developing and implementing a comprehensive road safety programme.

Through collaboration with the government, health ministry, World Health Organization (WHO) and Bloomberg Global Road Safety programme, a five-year road safety programme (2015-19) aimed at reducing road accident has been developed.

Punishable offences

Sokoni said the law requires any driver causing an accident which causes death without reporting the incident to the police to have his licence suspended for six months, regardless of whether the incident was taken to court or not.

The law also requires the driver of a motor vehicle to be fined or jailed for six months.

Any person who has been hit by a vehicle has the right to demand for compensation and to file a civil case for being hit, he said.
Subsection (3) of the law states that “in the case of any accident, if no person is injured thereby, the driver of the vehicle shall give to the person concerned his name and address, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle and the registration number of vehicle.”

Tackling hit-and-run cases

‘A Manual for Hit-and-Run: Prevalence, Contributing Factors and Countermeasures (a research brief) of 2017 shows that scientific literature on hit-and-run crashes is sparse, with only a few major works in the study. Three focus areas emerged: description of the victims, with strong focus on pedestrians; characteristics of the crash scene, and description of the drivers committing the offence.

Pedestrians account for the majority of people killed in hit-and-run cases. Studies of US road fatalities over the past 30 years have shown that approximately 1 in 5 pedestrian deaths involves a hit-and-run accident.

In contrast, areas with higher pedestrian traffic increase the likelihood of such accidents. The research findings are sometimes mixed, but environmental characteristics are still important when considering countermeasures.

Chairman of the National Council for Road Safety Hamadi Masauni said the council proposes to embark on intensive research to investigate key causes of road crashes and to advise the central government on possible steps that need to be taken.

“We will supervise and put more efforts on accident hotspots in order to establish the source of road crashes, citing Mbeya region where road accidents happen often,” said Masauni, who is also deputy minister for home affairs.

He said the council would also deal with motor vehicles often causing road crashes including passenger buses, trucks, public vehicles and motorcycles.

Masauni said the council was targeting to reduce road crashes by 25 per cent by early next year.