Last week, the police concluded their annual Road Safety Week. While in previous years they held the event in the middle of the year, this time they opted for November so they could use updated statistics in their sensitization campaign.
Those statistics are not nice. One person is killed every day in a traffic accident, and about seven are injured. While that is a significant improvement compared to five years ago, when six persons lost their life and 17 were injured each day in road accidents, it is still too much.
What makes it worse is that the main causes of the accidents can be easily avoided, yet over the years they have remained the same: speeding and use of a mobile phone while behind the wheel.
Therefore, it is high time that we all take our responsibility. No matter how many traffic police officers patrol our streets on foot or motorcycle, they will never be able to catch more than a tiny fraction of the people talking on the phone in their car or on their motorbike. So it is down to each and every citizen to act responsibly. It is clear that too many car drivers are still too little aware of the danger that using their phone actually poses, as evidenced by the immature behavior of many who put down their phone when they get near a traffic police check point, and pick it up again as soon as they have passed it.
To those, we can only say: go ahead and wreck your own life if you want to, but your irresponsible behavior is more likely to cause harm to some pedestrian or bicyclist, and you have no right to put them in danger.
But it is not only those who are actually driving a vehicle who should take action. As passengers too, we should consider it our duty to intervene if a driver behaves irresponsibly. Bus drivers and taxi-motorcyclists are among the worst offenders when it comes to speeding and phone use, exactly because it is rare that a passenger objects to such behavior. And yet, we are entitled to a safe journey, so let's stand up and demand our rights.
Not only will a more responsible road behavior result in less casualties (which in itself would be a laudable result), but as traffic police commander Celestin Twahirwa points out, it might even help in the country's development, considering that road accidents also result in economic losses due to lost productivity of those killed or injured and damage to property.
So if the idea of a mangled body is not enough to scare you, maybe try to think about Vision 2020 next time you want to pick up that phone. Our children's future is at stake, in more ways than one.