19 November 2012

Zambia: Nation Graples With Increased Road Carnage

ROAD accidents do not just happen; there are many contributing factors which lead to the final out-come where no one is ever certain of the severity.

There will be a continuous string of these accidents if road users do not become more cautious and considerate while driving, no matter how many kilometers away their destination is.

Recently, according to the Times on November 16 an incident occurred where two children were crushed to death when a vehicle reversed into the pillar of their house and it came down on them. This is a case of the driver not taking the needed precautions when reversing in a residential area, and carelessly driving. He has since been on the run and police are searching for him.

Usually, road accidents can be avoided.

In Zambia, most accidents are caused by human error rather than the factors of the vehicle.

Road accidents are bound to occur when drivers purposely exceed the speed limits for reasons such as; carelessness, having a bit of fun or even trying to meet deadlines and running behind schedule.

The incidents unnecessarily happen when road users/drivers overlook the laid down regulations which govern usage of our roads throughout the country.

Some drivers do not have valid driving licences and usually just drive unaware of the skills needed and the precautions to be taken.

They refuse to obey the rules and regulations and have a certain level of disregard towards the signs put up on the road sides which consequently cause otherwise avoidable accidents.

Another major contributing factor to road accidents is usually that of drinking and driving.

Here in Zambia there have not yet been any major laws laid down and enforced with regards to the consumption of alcohol and proceeding to drive afterwards.

Drinking and driving is an automatic risk of an accident happening, no matter how much alcohol has been consumed. A small amount of alcohol in the system of a driver can impair judgment as well as affect his abilities and unnecessarily put his/her life into danger while they travel.

However, it is rather biased to say that the drivers are the only reason behind the road accidents taking place. There are indeed other causative factors.

Road markings are a serious guide to road users, especially to those who travel at night such as truck drivers travelling when the traffic has subsided.

Non-existent road markings can cause accidents as drivers may unconsciously go into the other lane and collide with an on-coming car unaware of their dangerous act because of no markings to indicate their side of the road.

The most treacherous road that many road users use daily is the Kitwe-Chingola Road.

The absence of road markings on this road poses a traffic hazard .

The Government has been seen to be putting a lot of effort into the road network. The availability of good roads will help to slow down road traffic crashes by a great margin.

Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) principle publicity officer Mercy Khozi says many lives have been lost in a period of nine months.

"From the beginning of the year approximately 1,400 lives have been lost due to road accidents," said Ms Khozi.

Some which may have been avoided and some in which there was no way to prevent them.

On November 18 the RTSA called on all members of the public, Non-Governmental Organisations, emergency response units, the police, fire brigade, transport operators, doctors, nurses etc to join in the commemoration of the World Day of Remembrance of Traffic Victims, which had been passed for the first time in Zambia after the United Nations came up with the resolution.

RTSA feels that in order to prevent further crashes there was an urgent need to reflect on the road traffic accidents that have already taken place and to raise awareness that indeed they were serious incidents that have caused loss of life and injury and suffering leaving some families bereaved and surviving victims.

RTSA is hopes of reducing the rate of road accidents by 60 per cent by the year 2021.

It is true that road accidents are not always caused by bad driving but rather good drivers are put into bad situations in which they lose control of their vehicles.

A Ndola resident Thomas Maseka describes road traffic accidents as devastating.

He was recently involved in a road traffic accident which threatened his life.

Travelling along the Nkana Road of Ndola, a drunk driver came towards him and sent him off the road where his car had flipped countless times before landing. Apparently, the driver, Solomon Nyirenda, had tried to avoid the accident but could not swerve in time.

"When you drive, it is very important to watch the way other road users are driving, the cause of an accident may not always be your fault but the result of careless driving from another road user," Nyirenda said.

When travelling, it is always recommendable to assess the confidence of the driver, especially when public transport is being utilised.

Public transporters have the lives of many passengers in their hands so it is vitally important that the drivers have valid licences, have taken driving tests and are confident while driving and even when unexpected pressure is placed upon them.

"Operators must be cautious in employing drivers,"

Aaron Kamuti, chairperson of Commuters Rights Association of Zambia (CRAZ) said; "They must assess the drivers thoroughly and also make sure that they understand and obey the regulations governing the roads before entrusting them with the lives of over fifteen passengers daily."

CRAZ does not set out the rules for road users but they are in close relation with RTSA and make sure that the rules are enforced and followed effectively, making the roads safer.

It is true that road safety concerns all citizens, even pedestrians who often get hit by oncoming vehicles due to one of the above mentioned factors. It is imperative that we all play a significant role and put effort into making our roads across the nation a safe haven.

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