According to reports, road accidents are one of the major causes of deaths in Uganda together with communicable diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Last week, about 3 major road accidents were reported including two that involved 2 YY buses in Mbale and Iganga killing at least 11 people. Another accident happened in Rubirizi district, western Uganda involving a fuel tank that burst into flames after ramming into four commuter taxis leaving at least 16 people dead and property destroyed.
These accidents are just a portion of the very many that happen on a daily basis in different parts of the country commonly involving vehicles and motorcycles.
But what exactly causes these rampant road accidents that are claiming the lives of many Ugandans, and what can be done to stop them?
Reckless and careless driving
On many occasions, the police have reported reckless driving as the primary cause of road accidents in Uganda. For example, this was pointed out as the cause of the recent accident in Iganga where a bus driver was trying to overtake and he ended up in a head collision with a commuter taxi killing all the 10 people who were in the taxi.
Reckless driving involves over speeding the vehicle beyond the maximum speed permitted along that particular road, overtaking other vehicles where it is not necessary and obstruction of drivers through talking on phones while driving, playing loud music in the car and lack of focus.
Drinking and driving can also be brought under this category. This is also a very common practice in Uganda. This majorly happens late in the night when people exploit the opportunity that traffic officers are away from duty resting and they take their vehicles while drunk. Drunk driving has resulted into a lot of accidents that have claimed many lives.
Reckless driving is primarily attributed to the vehicle drivers who are in full control of the vehicle and therefore it is their sole responsibility to ensure that they drive carefully to avoid causing these avoidable accidents.
Narrow and old roads
Uganda is facing this infrastructural problem. Our roads were constructed in an old fashion to cater for a few cars that were in the country by then. Today the number of cars in the country has out used the quality and capacity of the existing roads.
Overtaking on Ugandan roads is riskier than never before because there is no enough space for a vehicle to overtake another. This is why those who try to do it sometimes end up causing accidents.
Skidding along the roads has also become common of recent with the Kampala-Masaka highway frequently mentioned as a slippery road that causes cars to skid. This is also a result of the road being too old and over-used which makes the tarmac so smooth losing any kind of friction that holds car tyres firm stopping them from skidding.
The problem of narrow and old roads can only be solved by the government through the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) by rehabilitating the existing roads through widening them in addition to constructing new ones to avoid over-using the few ones that are in place.
Speed humps should also be thought of and put in place in areas where they are needed like along highways where accidents usually happen. This helps to control over-speeding. Sometimes you drive a very long distance along highways without finding any speed humps. This encourages drivers to over-speed vehicles which sometimes ends up in an accident.
There are very many drivers out there busy driving vehicles without the necessary qualifications. Most of these are young men who have exploited the loopholes in authorities regarding licensing and carting out operations to arrest them.
A lot of road accidents have been caused by these unqualified and unlicensed drivers given that most of them don’t know much about the traffic rules and also possess little skills in driving.
It may not be wrong to say that the responsibility to stop unqualified drivers majorly belongs to the traffic police who have to step up and ensure that every driver on the road is qualified and licensed to do so. Individuals are also called upon to be responsible and avoid driving cars if they don’t qualify to do so in order to save both their own lives and others.
Mechanically poor vehicles
Mechanically poor vehicles can breakdown anytime along the journey causing accidents. Some drivers have a tendency of taking long without servicing their vehicles or taking them for regular checkup by the mechanics. A car engine should always be in a good condition, while the driver should always ensure that important components like oil, water, fuel, brake fluid, are in the right amounts every time before they move the vehicle. The general body of the car should also be examined well always.
The traffic department of the police should always ensure that all cars on the road are in proper mechanical conditions while stopping all those that don’t fulfill the required mechanical standards.
Corruption is a serious indirect cause of road accidents in Uganda. Unfortunately, this majorly involves traffic officials who should be working hard to ensure the safety of travelers along the roads. Some of these officials have gone on to accept bribes from the culprits they arrest due to bad driving and other offenses while letting them go, causing accidents later on.
This is a call for transparency and integrity among the officials to ensure that they don’t allow any driver who doesn’t qualify to drive and also not allowing any vehicle that doesn’t deserve to be on the road. There is no sum of money given that equals the human lives that are always lost through these accidents that can be controlled.
In conclusion, road accidents are such a big threat to human life in Uganda without reasonable doubt and stopping them is a collective effort of all the stakeholders. From motorists to passengers and to pedestrians and together with the authorities, we all have a role to play if we are to succeed in this struggle.