22 January 2013

Gambia: We Want to Live

Road accidents have always been a major killer in this country. Though we do not have the statistics at hand, media reports testify to the fact that many lives have been lost, through road accidents.

The causes of these accidents are many and varied.

Over-speeding, negligence due to faulty brakes or worn-out tires or the lack of headlights (especially at night) have often been pinpointed as the root causes of road accidents in the country.

Poor roads, with crater-like potholes or narrow slippery bends, are also at the root of most accidents.

An accident is an accident, simply because it was not planned or intended, but its resultant harm could be mitigated or curtailed through caution and forethought.

One such measure is the continuous use of the seat belts or safety belts, as it is sometimes called. We think the use of safety belt is more appropriate, because it conveys more explicitly the purpose it is meant to serve.

The great merit of the safety belt is that it gives the passenger stability, when an accident happens. As a result, he or she suffers less harm than they would have suffered without using their safety belts.

A few years ago, the idea of the use of safety belt was mooted, it was greeted with skepticism. Most people were of the belief that it was unenforceable.

But the police stood to their grounds, and warned that any violator of the safety belt law would be dealt with sternly and right on the spot.

Since then, drivers themselves have taken it upon themselves to remind passengers to always fasten their safety belts.

There are three issues at play here. One, it is ironic that people have to be forced to safeguard their own lives. Two, it tells us that any rule or law is enforceable, provided there is the will to enforce it. Three, it has disabused our minds of the misconception that Africans cannot be made to keep basic laws.

But there is another dimension to the use of safety belts.

The authorities should and must not be seen to slacken their vigilance. If they do so, the rot will set in. They should work hard at it until the practice becomes as involuntary as the blinking of our eyelids.

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