Road safety week takes off under cloud of concern

27Sep 2016
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
Road safety week takes off under cloud of concern

THIS year’s National Road Safety Week is now underway amid growing public concerns over an apparently unstoppable increase in the number of motor vehicle accidents claiming thousands of people’s lives on a yearly basis.

Hamad Masauni

Speaking at the week’s official launch in Geita region yesterday, deputy home affairs minister Hamad Masauni disclosed that road mishaps in the country have killed at least 11,230 people and injured over 44,000 others over the past three years alone.

Masauni used the occasion to order the state-run Tanzania National Roads Agency (TANROADS) to remove speed humps on highways, which he described as having become a leading cause of accidents instead of a deterrent against speeding.

According to Geita regional road safety committee chairman Edward Nyauringo, most of the road accidents recorded in the region were caused by drivers who were either unskilled or not properly trained.

Nyauringo said this year’s Road Safety Week will be held under the theme ‘No Road Crashes - We Want To Live’, with activities including intensive vehicle inspections all over the country.

Vehicles which pass the inspection will be given special identification and safety stickers, he explained, adding that a provision for training drivers has also been included in an effort to curb accidents.

At the same time, a survey by The Guardian found that apart from negligent drivers, members of the public also saw corrupt traffic police officers as being a major reason behind road accidents in the country.

According to Tanzania Bus Owners Association (TABOA) general secretary Enea Mrutu, the major focus of this week’s road safety activities should be on speeding as a proven underlying factor in most accident cases.

Reckless drivers employed by many local bus or truck transportation companies are most often to blame, Mrutu asserted.

He also cited defective vehicles and police corruption as major contributing factors, with some traffic police officers said to habitually accept bribes from drivers caught speeding or having violated some other traffic rule.

“The government should take urgent measures to address this problem by ensuring that stern measures are taken against everyone involved in the breaking of road safety laws and regulations, including the traffic police officers themselves,” Mrutu said.

Regarding why road accidents tend to become more and more frequent as the year approaches its later stages, the TABOA secretary opined that this appears to be the peak season for reckless driving.

Dar es Salaam resident Feisali Juma said the government should have long started getting better results from its annual measures to curb road accidents in the country.

“It is high time sterner measures were imposed all round to reduce the numbers of such accidents which are killing too many Tanzanians,” Juma remarked.

The Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA)’s director for road transport regulation, Johansen Kahatano, attributed the rise in the number of road accidents as year’s end approaches to an increase of vehicles on the road, many of them in imperfect shape.

“My call is for bus owners to stop allowing faulty buses to be making trips during the later months of the year. We at SUMATRA will ruthlessly deal with those who are found doing that,” Kahatano told The Guardian.

National Traffic Police Commander Mohamed Mpinga recently said an increase in the overall number of motor vehicles, defective vehicles in particular, and road users at large were among the major reasons for the fresh spate of road mishaps across the country.

According to commander Mpinga, adherence to road safety laws and regulations and regularly checking vehicles could greatly help to reduce the accidents.

“Other factors are reckless driving, driving at unmanageable speeds, drinking and driving, and some drivers being medically unfit to drive. All these are preventable, so they really should be avoided,” he said.

He reiterated that the traffic police department won’t hesitate to appropriately punish drivers who cause unnecessary road accidents.