WHEN the authorities allowed, more than five years ago, motorcycles to be used for commercial purposes: herewith nicknamed 'bodaboda', nobody believed the good intentions would turn to be almost a national disaster.
This is because road carnage reports last year account for almost 1,000 deaths that are related to motorcycles alone.
In the commercial capital city of Dar es Salaam where the multitude of all kinds of motorcycles are found coupled with hair-raising dangerous riding, no wonder more than fifty fatal motorcycle accidents are reported on daily basis from the three districts of Ilala, Kinondoni and Temeke Municipalities.
The Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI), and the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), that entertains fatal referral cases while some serious ones are attended at the districts' hospitals, is overwhelmed by road traffic accidents which have increased in numbers so fast that patients have to sleep on the hospital ward floor due to a shortage of beds.
This was reported as of last May. According to the MNH spokesperson, Juma Almas, in the past few years the hospital used to receive at least three cases of road accidents per month, but the number has risen to more than five cases a day. "We are overwhelmed and that is the reason why we see patients sleeping on the floor. There has been dramatic increase in the recent past," Almas explained.
As experienced the leeway in commercialization of motorcycles came to relief the masses of the serious transportation bottlenecks faced both in the urban and the rural populace, whereby the later mainly depended on bicycles, tractors and trucks whereas greater numbers have been doing it on foot, like was the case in the prehistoric times.
While the commercialization of motorcycles epoch is gaining momentum, yet the road carnage related to the new system is day in day out on the increase, with some of the reasons to the effect are within manageable stance. Some of these are including shortage of reliable and smooth roads infrastructure in urban and rural areas irrespective of their materials worthiness.
Recklessness has been accounted for among a big number of motorcyclists as the main causes of the fatal motorbike related accidents, coupled with none-wearing of helmets, riding under the influence of alcohol and none-adherence to road traffic regulations.
These include carrying more than one passenger and whom do not have protective clothes or helmets. In worst scenarios, children are also carried in this fashion nicknamed " mishikaki", oblivious of the dangers associated with such decision. Many people, youths in particular have found themselves losing limbs and many more ending up with permanent disabilities.
People visiting MOI have witnessed a good number of people, particularly male youths admitted in the wards nursing broken limbs and other bodily injuries caused by motorcycle accidents and some have vowed never to ride on such transport. "I went to MOI for back ache problems but what I saw there, I found myself cured.
A good number of people, young men in particular are admitted with lost limbs and other severe injuries," said Khamis Juma, a carpenter from Ukonga adding; "I bigger number of them were attending clinics with their legs screwed with antennas like those of TV.
When I asked a doctor what was the epidemic, he told me those were a result of motorcycles accidents." Three other major setbacks contributory to the fatal motorbike accidents are overlooked by the authorities. These are including the sub-standards of the motorcycles that are imported into the country, poor quality of the helmets that are manufactured by using poor quality materials and riding the bikes with unlighted head lamps during the day.
No matter how good a bike rider can be, but with the mentioned shortcomings it is not easy to determine the fate of motorcyclists in the country together with their passengers. The issue of unlighted head lamps is related to poor manufacturing. Modern motorcycles are fitted automatic head lamps switching devices that work immediately the craft is switched on, something that is lacking to nearly all the new makes available on the roads in the country today.
Worse still the regulating authority seems to have neglected its responsibility of ensuring the safety of the motorcyclists thereby putting at risk their lives. The lumps are a warning to motorists on the approaching cyclists, as to any drivers it is not easy to notice motorcyclists without lighted lamps. Like is the case with the enforcement of wearing helmets, let the authorities deal equally so with the motorcyclists' necessity of riding with lighted head lamps, starting with the police force's crime stoppers' motorcyclists.
And the importers should be forced to sell motorcycles that are fitted with the automatic head lamp switching devices. Since this issue can easily be pursued, but that of importation of the poor quality cycles, some through the self-made ports; over tenfold on the Indian Ocean seashores of Bagamoyo areas, can be taken aboard by the Government in a bid to spare the loss of innocent souls in their hundreds yearly.
Another thing that put them in high risks is non adherence of traffic lights signs that control usage of roads. A visit at Ubungo, Tazara, Chang'ombe, and other major junctions with traffic lights will tell it all. A number of motorcyclists cross the roads when green lights are not on their side, and sometime in presence of traffic police.
It is high time that motorcyclists breaking the law are taken to task or have their licences provoked whenever they break traffic laws or wait to watch many innocent lives being lost and emergence of platoons of disabled youths. All of these could be avoided if everyone plays their part.