Road safety needs holis­tic ap­proach

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Leader -

W E ex­tend sin­cere con­do­lences to fam­i­lies that lost their loved ones in Wed­nes­day’s hor­ror crash that claimed 46 lives when Smart Ex­press and Bolt Cut­ter buses side-swiped along the Mutare-Harare High­way near Rusape.

Gov­ern­ment has since de­clared the ac­ci­dent a na­tional dis­as­ter. We have said it be­fore and will say it again: Some of our road users have be­come death mer­chants. They killed yes­ter­day. They are killing to­day and they shall kill to­mor­row un­less we make de­lib­er­ate ef­forts to stop the car­nage to­day — all of us.

If our na­tional goal is to re­duce road car­nage to 50 per­cent by 2020, it means there should be a paradigm shift in how mo­torists be­have on the roads, con­sid­er­ing that hu­man er­ror is blamed for the ma­jor­ity of the ac­ci­dents.

The Traf­fic Safety Coun­cil of Zim­babwe (TSCZ) has since said that driver er­rors are clearly the ma­jor cause of road traf­fic crashes.

If hu­man er­ror is be­hind the car­nage on our roads, it is pru­dent to ask where law en­force­ment is? If the law is not be­ing en­forced, we have to ask why, and whose re­spon­si­bil­ity it is to en­sure that traf­fic laws are fol­lowed to the let­ter by all mo­torists.

If the laws are ar­chaic, it means the cur­rent Par­lia­ment should be seized with the mat­ter to en­sure that the traf­fic jun­gle is tamed.

Many roads re­quire re­fur­bish­ment, but not the Mutare-Harare High­way, since it was resur­faced and marked. Thus, we can­not blame the ac­ci­dent on pot­holes. Ini­tial re­ports clearly show that this tragedy was a re­sult of neg­li­gence and hu­man er­ror on the part of one of the bus drivers.

We should also ask our­selves how much th­ese ac­ci­dents drain from Trea­sury and other well-wish­ers. For­mer Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jo­ram Gumbo said in July this year that the coun­try was los­ing about $406 mil­lion a year due to traf­fic ac­ci­dents, which amounted to three per­cent of the na­tional Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct.

As we search for an­swers, we should also re­alise that we are in this to­gether. We have, by com­mis­sion and/or omis­sion, nur­tured the traf­fic jun­gle, and we have to undo the mess in­clu­sively.

Traf­fic reg­u­la­tions should be en­forced and the long arm of the law should en­sure that drivers who break the law are brought to book.

We do not un­der­stand why we have never seen a breathal­yser on our roads when such equip­ment is stan­dard is­sue to traf­fic po­lice the world over. As drivers are re­ori­ented, the multi-sec­toral ap­proach sug­gested by the TSCZ spokesper­son Mr Ta­tenda Chin­oda, should also be im­ple­mented, where he sug­gested ed­u­cat­ing drivers to elim­i­nate ac­ci­dents.

“The drivers who would have vi­o­lated traf­fic rules de­serve to be ar­rested, but ed­u­ca­tion must come first. Drivers are only trained to get a li­cence for driv­ing safely, but there are lot of things which drivers have to be taught to avert the in­crease in road traf­fic ac­ci­dents,” said Mr Chin­oda.

It is also im­per­a­tive to know what the dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers should do in the event of such a hor­ren­dous ac­ci­dent. We don’t have to rein­vent the wheel. In this age of news-on-de­mand, we have seen how some na­tion­al­i­ties are al­ways in a state of pre­pared­ness: the po­lice, hos­pi­tals, fire bri­gade, am­bu­lances and vol­un­teers, while the me­dia is on stand-by to in­form the na­tion.

While we all have th­ese, the ma­jor is­sue is whether they are ca­pac­i­tated to do their work. When push comes to shove, are they able to de­liver? For ex­am­ple, how many crit­i­cal pa­tients were taken to other hos­pi­tals through other means, other than am­bu­lances and/or pri­vate cars?

Who were the first re­spon­ders, and have the me­dia been in­form­ing the na­tion on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, be­cause this is a na­tional dis­as­ter?

When there is only one na­tional broad­caster, is it wise that they screen a fort­night-old soc­cer match in­stead of giv­ing up­dates of events on the ground in Rusape? This goes for all me­dia. A na­tional dis­as­ter can­not be treated as busi­ness as usual.

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