1 January 2013

Zimbabwe: It's Our Responsibility to Curb Road Carnage


This festive season has been described as the bloodiest in the history of road accidents in Zimbabwe and this calls for a holistic approach involving all stakeholders - Government, law enforcers, motorists and passengers included - to curb carnage on our roads.

As a country, we now have a deadly combination of inexperienced and unlicensed drivers, speeding at times with overloaded vehicles with worn out tyres. This happens in some cases in bad wet weather and poor road conditions.

We report in this paper today that so far 166 people, most of them able bodied, have perished in 1 030 accidents countrywide that left 867 seriously maimed. This happened between December 15 2012 and yesterday morning.

This is a huge loss in terms of human, material and financial resources and in some countries ministers and officials responsible for traffic departments are forced to resign after such carnage.

Such huge human tragedy calls for serious policy review at national level and legislators should be forced to spring into action by such mishaps and reinforce existing laws so that they empower law enforcers to diligently do their job.

Dirty traffic cops, of course, have a fair share of blame in this carnage, though it will be difficult to nail them unless one catches them on the spot after setting traps.

However, we call for serious introspection by everyone on the wheel to see to undertake to obey all road rules before putting an ignition key on the vehicle.

The motorists should put on their seatbelts and ensure all the passengers also fasten theirs before the car is put in motion. There is also need for motorists to ensure the tyres have the right amount of pressure, are not worn out and that cars carry the recommended loads. We call upon the people out there to note that seatbelts are not put on to please the police officers on the roadblocks, but for their safety.

You will notice that after an accident some of the vehicles, buses included, will have visibly worn out tyres and one wonders how the vehicles would have passed roadblocks all the way from Harare until their demise say in Shangani on their way to Bulawayo.

We challenge the police and Vehicle Inspection Department officials to go back to basics where they used to stop vehicles, check on tyre conditions, headlamps, seatbelts, turning lights, handbrakes and foot breaks.

Although some impatient motorists rush to police officers at roadblocks to plead for lenience or offer some tokens including money, we challenge the officers to do physical checks and unroadworthy vehicles should be impounded and taken to the nearest police station or VID depot.

The scenario obtaining is the people are just asked to pay and they proceed with the journey using the defective vehicles. Out of the 1 196 vehicles police impounded during this holiday, some of them have already been taken by owners and are back on the roads with the same defects.

Curbing road accidents is not the responsibility of the police alone and we also call upon the public to play their part.

We encourage motorists, especially those importing vehicles from some Asian and other countries with cold weather to immediately change the tyres and replace them with appropriate ones. Some people have died after some ball joints came off while speeding because their vehicles were not checked. Surely some of these things are our responsibility.

Cases of accidents as a result of overtaking and misjudgment errors are on the increase and we challenge the motorists to periodically have their eye sight checked by experts who will recommend the use of correct spectacles that suit their disability.

People should have enough rest before embarking on long journeys because fatigue has claimed many lives.

Due to a prolonged period where the country had been unable to repair roads because of economic hardships, it is common knowledge that some stretches of the country's roads are now dangerous and we call on drivers to exercise caution.

Speeding cannot be tolerated and those with sight challenges should avoid night driving at all cost because most accidents happen during the night when visibility is poor.

Local authorities should not be spared because they have left many unsecured trenches and many cars have fallen into the ditches and in most cases with no compensation to injured people and damaged vehicles.

The local authorities should also punish tele-communication companies that dig trenches and leave them unsecured for weeks, putting the lives pedestrians and motorists at risk.

So many people have been killed or maimed in accidents that took place at intersections after some motorists decide to pass through red robots. We suggest stiffer sentences for people found guilty of passing through red robots to send a message to other road users who commit similar crimes. Those caught driving without licences should be punished accordingly.

The number of people killed in 2012 should send a clear message to policy makers that as the population increases and many people buy cars, there is a need to respond to the new challenge and come up with laws to empower law enforcers to execute their duties.

They say your health is your responsibility, likewise it's your responsibility to behave in a manner that saves you and others while driving on the road.

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