26 November 2012

Rwanda: Respect of Traffic Rules Is Not Optional

The annual Road Safety Week organized by the Rwanda National Police ended on Friday with a call to reduce traffic accidents.

The week-long campaign, which aims to reduce road accidents through an educative approach, focused on the importance of seat belts, dangers of over speeding, reckless driving and driving under influence of alcohol, the use of helmets, obeying traffic rules among other forms of road discipline.

According to the traffic security officer at the Rwanda National Police (RNP), chief superintendent Celestin Twahirwa, the week was shifted from midyear so that the police can use facts related to roads accidents to convincingly carry out sensitization campaign. "We wanted to use statistics of this year's accidents to show how dangerous violating traffic rules can be," he said, adding that RNP wants every citizen to be responsible traffic ambassadors.

According to traffic police report, road accidents cause an average of 380 deaths and 2,700 injuries each year. "For that reason, road safety education is seen as crucial tool in ensuring that roads are safer for all," Twahirwa remarked. "Road accidents result in economic losses due to lost productivity of those killed or injured, medical treatment and damage to property."

"In Rwanda, at least one person dies every day from a road accident, and an average of seven others are injured," he added. "We can prevent that from happening."

The number has significantly decreased from six persons killed and 17 injured per day five years ago. Speeding and talking on the phone while driving were cited as the main causes of roads' accidents in the country.

But are the police equipped to control and monitor those who violate traffic rules? Twahirwa says they are. "We have speed radars countrywide which detect speeding. We also have cars with speed cameras attached on them. Whether moving or not, they can detect the speed for any car coming from the front or behind," he explained.

According to the traffic chief, the number of such traffic police cars will be increased and distributed countrywide in the future.

Motorbikes vs phones

Concerning phone users, Twahirwa said police officers on the road are able to know if someone is answering a phone call while driving due to the car's speed and motions. "But that's not as effective as we want it to be. That's why we have motorbikes which are supposed to chase after such drivers and monitor especially cars on the road."

The campaign also asked passengers to be more vigilant in order to avoid accidents. The common occurrence of motor riders who place their phones in their helmet to answer a call was cited. "Though they have their hands free, they forget that distraction is another issue which may cause accidents. Passengers should report such individuals to the police," Twahirwa advised.

Most of the drivers and motorcyclists who talked to The Rwanda Focus admitted that they have violated traffic rules intentionally at least once. "Sometimes calls are so important that one needs to answer them that we do not realize how dangerous this can be," admitted Felix Nkubito, a taxi driver in Kigali City. "Once I got involved in an accident and spent a couple of weeks in hospital."

He added he had benefitted from the week-long campaign.

And Superintendent Twahirwa pointed out that road safety does not only mean that you only drive your car but also try to help other drivers by fulfilling all the requirements and respecting the rules.

"Then you will have contributed to sustainable development," he said, "because traffic security is part of the country's development."

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