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Road Safety Experts Call For Inter-Ministerial Approach To Curb Road Carnage

Road safety experts are calling for an inter-ministerial approach in dealing with road carnage in the country. They say that there is no magic bullet to end the road carnage instead, a set of measures needs to be adopted and implemented religiously so as to put an end to the road crashes.

In a period of 15 days, Uganda has lost over 100 people in road crashes across the country. According to police, 55 people died in crashes during the peak of the Christmas holiday from 23rd to 26th December 2022.

Later on Tuesday 3rd January 2023, the traffic police spokesperson, Assistant Superintendent of Police Faridah Nampiima, reported that between December 30, 2022 and January 1, 2023, a total of 104 road crashes were registered. The accidents involved 149 victims, 35 of whom died while 114 sustained serious injuries.

The most recent fatal crash happened on Friday 6th, involving a bus from Roblyn Company in Kamdin along the Kampala-Gulu highway in northern Uganda leaving at least 19 people dead.

Such reports have ignited the debate on what should be done to curb road crashes. Even the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa directed the Works ministry to present a statement on road accidents in the country and what measuring are being implemented to remedy the situation.

Speaking to URN in an interview, Fred Tumwine Nkuruho, the Executive Director of Uganda Road Accident Reduction Network Organisation said that ministries such as Works and Transport, Education, Internal Affairs and Health should together design a strategy to address the different factors leading to road crashes in the country and each ministry be given a role that is in line with its mandate.

He observed that the main cause of road crashes is human behavior and this can be addressed through education and sensitization of road users. He says, the ministry of works can undertake efforts to sensitize the public on proper road usage, avoid over speeding and driving recklessly while the ministry of works tames young ones through education while at school.

Tumwine says, in the past, they worked with the World Bank and the Ministry of Education to develop a curriculum for road safety for learners from primary one to primary four but this is insufficient. He says that there should be a curriculum for road safety for all primary school learners and also teachers in training.

Another road safety expert, Peter Tibigambwa, the Chief Executive Officer of Safe Way Right Way, a civil society organisation that promotes safe road usage also emphasized the education factor, calling on government to ensure that all drivers acquire professional driving skills before getting on the road.

It is not uncommon that people learn to drive from relatives and friends who often only teach them how to ignite the car and move it, skipping the traffic rules and regulations.

Tibigambwa says that government should ensure that all drivers are well trained by professionals and that they follow the traffic rules and regulations. Relatedly, he says that government needs to tighten its enforcement to capture drivers who abuse the rules.

Apart from training and enforcement, Tibigambwa further points to the relevance of proper planning of one’s journey. He says that the failure to plan well could prompt people to travel in un-serviced cars which could be problematic and also drive at an unacceptably high speed because they want to catch up on time.

Between January 2021 to February 2022, researchers from the Science, Technology and Innovation Secretariat of the Office of the President in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development conducted a rapid assessment of road crashes in Uganda.

They found that the causes of road accidents in Uganda are mainly due to human error, weather and poor state of some roads. But, they concluded that road crashes continue to occur in Uganda mainly due to human error.

Many road users overspeed, drink and drive, drivers and riders use mobile phones while driving, says the report, which also blames theft of signages along the roads, overtaking in narrow spots.

Eng. Nathan Tumushabe, a Senior Vehicle Inspector at the Ministry of Works and Transport also agrees that the main cause of road crashes is human behavior. He says that although different measures can be put in place, the situation can only improve if road users adopt the right attitude and become responsible users.

There is a government plan to reintroduce speed governors so that drivers are limited on what maximum speed to run at. This was tried years back but failed with government accusing vehicle owners of learning to manipulate the governors to disable them from performing.

Tumushabe says that as they plan to reintroduce them, they want to adopt a whole tracking system where any attempt to manipulate the speed governor is reported directly to the control center. He says this has potential to reduce road carnage, but insists that behavior change is the ultimate key solution.

Bumaali Kagingo a driver who plies the Kampala to Mbale through Tirinyi route says the government should focus its efforts on improving the road infrastructure and also tighten enforcement. He agreed that some drivers on highway speed, but insists that this could have been less of a problem if highways were wider and managed in a way that different cars depending on size and tonnage operate on particular lanes. Kagingo also says that government should install speed cameras on all road to curb reckless drivers.

The 2022 rapid assessment report of road crashes in Uganda indicates that government spends between 930,000 to 13,660,000 shillings to treat a road crash victim.

URN

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