As the calls to improve road safety are refreshed, motorcyclists continue to be involved in accidents more than other road users, especially in Kigali, where they account for over 80 % of the accidents recorded annually, according to the traffic police reports.
The reason is obvious. Probably due to their agility and apparent high self-confidence, taxi-moto drivers seem to think that everybody will get out of the way for them and that traffic regulations apply to everyone but themselves. Ignoring of traffic lights, driving without permits or insurance, slaloming between lanes, excessive speed... it's all in a day's work for the average motorcyclist.
Kigali City's mayor Fidele Ndayisaba however wants to burst that bubble, reminding all drivers, and motorcyclists in particular, that most accidents are avoidable if they act responsibly and respect traffic rules. "That means even the innocent lives that perish in road accidents can be saved," he recently said.
According to statistics from the National Police, at least one person dies in road accident, every day. Police spokesman Theos Badege adds that at least six people get injured in road accidents daily, the majority of which are due to carelessness by motorcyclist. He therefore urges passengers to always challenge reckless drivers and denounce such practices.
"Reject errant motorists, and if they persist, inform the police," Badege advises. "Passengers have a role to play by reminding drivers to be careful, not to use the phone while driving, not to over speed, and inform concerned authorities if drivers continue to put their lives in danger."
"We are going to take measures to ensure that our members review the way they operate. Where necessary, we will penalize those who display bad behavior."
Eric Nisingizwe, the head of Ferwacotamo, an association grouping motorcyclists cooperatives, for his part pledges "full commitment and partnership" with traffic police officers to enforce road security. "We are going to take measures to ensure that our members review the way they operate," he says. "Where necessary, we will penalize those who display bad behavior."
Obviously, talk to the motorcyclists themselves and they will proclaim innocence. Gervais Habiyakare, who operates in Kigali, claims that in more than 10 years on the road, he has been involved in only two accidents. "And those were not my fault," he is quick to add.
Habiyakare, true to his element, follows it up with a profession of faith. "We can minimize the risks by driving slowly, anticipating the behavior of others and find a way where it is. In traffic jams you sometimes see motorcycles trying to pass even by using the sidewalk."
The traffic police has in the past held discussions with motorcycle associations, as wellas campaigns to curb traffic offences and ensure road safety. "It has yielded positive results. We cannot ignore the change of mindset of some motorcyclists in respecting regulations," Badege says.
Late last year, many motorcycles have been confiscated for violation of traffic rules. Mid-January, RNP released the impounded motorcycles following new guidelines issued by the Traffic and Road Safety Department, where motorcyclists found breaking traffic regulations will be handed alternative punishments like fines instead of seizing their vehicle, except in serious cases.
"Though the new guidelines are more lenient, there are exceptions where motorcycles will be impounded, especially those operating without insurance, over loading and where the rider is found without a driver's license," Badege clarified. "With a high number of accidents involving motorcycles, their vigilance can be critical in ensuring road safety."
The number of people who died in road traffic accidents last year reduced by 21.4% to 308 from 392 registered in 2011, according to police statistics. The reduction was attributed to several road safety measures initiated by police and partners such as sensitization and increase of traffic signs.
According to the police, negligence, bad maneuvers and speeding remain the major causes of traffic accidents at 56.4%, 24.3% and 8.8% respectively. Negligence also includes driving while on the phone.
Last year, 4471 accidents were recorded countrywide, claiming 474 lives.