A few weeks ago, I lost a high school friend in a horrific car accident. She was driving from Victoria Falls to Hwange, a road that many know to be notorious for causing accidents. Last week a friend lost her sister in an accident in which 15 people passed on. Today the newspapers are reporting another 15 people have died in another horrific accident. Each week, such accidents are making headlines setting 2016 up to become one of the worst years in terms of accident fatalities.
The State of the Roads,
The state of our roads is a major contributing factor on why we have so many road accidents. Many of our highways need to be dualised as these single carriageways are causing a lot of accidents. The state of the roads is appalling especially for busy roads such as the Harare Beitbridge Road.
Legislation is a very good way of changing behaviour. The penalty for accidents whether there are any casualties or not should be so strict as to deter people from committing such offenses. In the West, road penalties are so hefty that drivers ensure that they obey road rules. In Zimbabwe, pedestrians have got no rights and motorists just drive brazenly causing injury and death without any real consequences. In the West, one can cross the road by the pedestrian crossing and be assured that motorists will give you your right of way. This is because running over a pedestrian at a designated crossing carries such stiff penalties, it will ruin the rest of your life.
Deterrent penalties like having licenses revoked are very good at causing good behavior on the road. Our unlimited licenses that are never revoked give drivers a false sense of security so they drive anyhow. If stock theft courts a minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment, why should a driver killer be fined a $100 and get away with murder?
When the only way to get a license is to buy one, we have ourselves a situation where poor drivers are being allowed to drive. The mshikashika drivers are a menace and one wonders how they passed a test at the VID. When a poor driver buys a license and doesn’t understand the gravity of their responsibility on the road, the result is road carnage.
While policemen are busy looking for reflectors on cars, unfit drivers and cars flood our roads. All with reflectors, fire extinguishers and spare tyres. When one has violated a rule of the road, there is no meaningful penalty as the policemen will only require a bribe. Those who break rules get away with it by bribing policemen. While policemen are visible on our roads, the reason they are there is not to deter bad drivers or bad driving, but to make money out of motorists. Policemen should be on the roads to ensure road regulations are followed. Not just money making regulations like ticketing for driving on an amber traffic light, but real policing that improves road safety.
VID and Japenese cars
With the increase in Japanese cars on the roads, the VID needs to formulate policy that will allow for these cars to be inspected and certified roadworthy. Maybe like other countries have done, the simplest solution is to ban the importation of Japanese cars. There have been several reports about the tyres on Japanese cars being unsuitable for our roads, then maybe the VID or licensing department need to ensure that tyres have been changes before a car is licensed.
Accident Investigation and Research
I am currently enrolled on an accident investigation course, although it is an aviation course, I have realised that in aviation we take accidents seriously and study and learn from accidents. We do not just wish them away and we continue to develop and improve our workforce and equipment in order to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. Many developed countries have accident investigation organisations that feed into all modes of transport in order to make transportation safer. Until we know for sure what is the cause of these accidents, we cannot reduce the number of accidents on our roads. For us to find why these accidents are increasing, we need targeted research and an active accident investigation department.
They do say ignorance is bliss. I have travelled to South Africa by coach and am shocked to find the attitudes of certain passengers. Conversations normally go like, ‘ driver so and so of bus so and so can move, you will get to Harare very quickly’. Like the saying goes, arrive alive. The important thing is to arrive alive, yet some passengers are impressed by driver who speed. Drivers who speed put their passengers and other road users at risk and they should not be encouraged.
There are various other reasons for the surge in road accidents some of which are vehicle maintenance and congestion in our cities.
Finding solutions to the death toll is not to point fingers at any organisation or institution, but is to create a safe transport system. In my view, there are many reasons why the road accidents are increasing, but it finding the underlying factors will lead to resolution of the problems.