Ongwendiva — At least 470 people were killed on Namibian roads this year with an average of 32 lives being lost per month, according to the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA).
There has been an increase in accidents, significantly highway accidents in Namibia over the past few years, according to the MVA rep in the north.
But these statistics, numerically shocking as they may be, fail to reflect the social tragedy related to each life lost to road accidents, according to Philip Amunyela of the MVA Fund.
"One accident that remains fresh in my memory is the ten people killed and 28 injured in October when a truck encroached onto the opposite lane and collided head-on with a bus, about 30 km from Tsumeb on the way to Oshivelo," Amunyela said.
The African Road Safety Day held at Ongwediva Roadblock on Sunday brought together representatives from various churches, victims of car accidents, officials from the MVA Fund, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), and a large number of officials from the Oshakati and Ongwediva town councils.
The event was also aimed at launching phase 2 of the Ethimbo National Campaign in the Oshana Region.
"We, the people were shocked. We still need to find a word to describe these instances of people dying of preventable accidents," said the Oshana Regional Chairman Lotto Kuushomwa in a highly charged keynote address. The event was preceded by a religious service.
Kuushomwa added that Namibia has the lowest level of motorisation compared to the rest of the Africa, but it is the highest contributor to the gloomy global crash statistics.
Globally over 1.2 million people are killed each year, thus making road crashes a leading cause of death around the world. These figures translate into 3400 men, women and children who are killed on the world's roads every single day, while another 20-50 million are injured each year.
In Namibia, over 12 000 crashes are reported every year, of which close to 2 000 are fatal claiming about 500 lives.
"We too have a role to play in ensuring road safety. While travelling in public transport, passengers should protest and stop speeding and reckless driving by bus and taxi drivers. Owners of motor vehicles should ensure that employed drivers have genuine licences and are properly trained and drive responsibly," Kuushomwa said.
He insisted that most accidents are not caused by vehicles or roads but by the behaviour of drivers ignoring traffic rules. "It is my conviction that as road traffic crashes are caused, they are predictable and thus preventable."
The highest risk factors among male drivers in particular are speeding, drinking and driving and the failure to buckle up.
Kuushomwa noted that he personally witnessed drivers, especially long-distance bus drivers, remove their seatbelts after they have passed a police roadblock.
He claimed that some drivers also use radar detectors to avoid being caught, while drivers also alert each on the road about police speed traps ahead of them.
"When such a person is involved in a fatal crash do we still call it an accident? We need to find a word for this situation. People need to change their mindsets to avoid unnecessary accidents," he stressed.
He added that drivers too should realise that they endanger their own lives and those of others when they drive while drunk, drive recklessly, break traffic rules or use cellular phones while driving.
As per a resolution of the African Ministers of Transport Conference held in Luanda, Angola in November 2011, the Africa Road Safety Day is to replace the World Remembrance Day that is normally observed worldwide on the third Sunday of November each year.