LAST weekend, the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) released the National Standard that target to govern the manufacturing, importation, wearing and general usage of motor cycle helmets in the country.
Known as 'TSZ 1478;2013 Protective helmets for motorcycle riders-Specification' the Standard will prohibit all dealers, importers and manufacturers from importing and or manufacturing substandard helmets that of late are rated as one of the contributing factors to traffic accidents involving many motor cycle riders across the country.
To make sure the message penetrates to intended parties, the Bureau chose to hold the first stakeholders' workshop in Dar es Salaam where it explained on how the standard will work and more importantly the specification of the quality helmets to be locally manufactured or imported basing on the standard requirements.
"Motorcyclists' safety is not all about helmets as there are some other issues to be considered, but it is an indisputable fact that proper implementation of the standard will certainly reduce the number of deaths and injuries among riders and their passengers as experienced today," says the TBS Acting Chief Mr Joseph Masikitiko.
According to Mr Masikitiko, the full implementation of the standard however, awaits for other important regulations to be drafted by other law enforcers like the Police Force and Surface and Marine Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) to ensure riders wear helmets as a mandatory requirement.
He says the introduction of the standard comes as the number of deaths and injuries due to careless riding of motorcycles are on the rise apart from other factors like overloading, speeding, use of alcohol and lack of road safety training among others. While the news about motorcyclists' safety continues to be disheartening, he says, there is no mystery about what is needed to be done to keep riders safe calling for all stakeholders to have a clear way forward on ensuring motorcycle riding is not as dangerous as it is today.
The Bureau, according to the Acting DG, will ensure that helmets are certified to ascertain their quality and other stakeholders will have to play their roles as per their mandates to ensure smooth compliance and reduction of losses the nation was incurring for using substandard equipment.
Stakeholders had welcomed the idea, amid pointing a sharp finger at the present system of importing and using the helmets that are bought with the motorcycles. Mr Sondo Maximillian from the Transport Resources Centre (TRC) said current helmets both imported with the motorcycles and or imported separately had questionable quality and were largely substandard.
The situation is coupled by the poorly regulated motorcycle business operations calling for tough measures to make sure the new standard is effectively implemented and its regulations timely enforced. "We have a serious lack of clear regulations over the operations of the motorcycles across the country as business and income generating activity rather than the public service," says Mr Maximilian adding under such circumstances it is difficult for riders and passengers to see the necessity of putting on helmets for their safety.
But according to Inspector Mussa Manyama from the Traffic Police Department, safety measures when riding motorcycles was a responsibility of the passengers despite the fact that the Police is there to enforce the laws on traffic issues. According to Inspector Manyama, riders and passengers are at the end of the day to decide whether to go for safe motorcycles with quality protective gears like helmets or not before law enforcement on the same comes in.
"We have experienced in some upcountry regions where some passengers buy their own helmets and carry them whenever they wanted to ride or take a motorcycle. This can also be emulated in other cities like Dar es Salaam," he says. Stakeholders also pointed an accusing finger to the police, saying some of them have been lenient to cyclists who violate traffic regulations, while motorists have been punished severely.
Inspector Manyama admitted the shortcoming especially executing legal and disciplinary measures to riders who violate safety measures and traffic regulations but could not categorically state the way forward. Public education was equally emphasized as one of the measures to mitigate the problem outdated mindsets that careless riding of motorcycles was not that dangerous after all.
On that aspect, the National Institute of Transport pledged to team up with other players and actively engage in providing education on the best practices governing the motorcycle activities and operations. TBS Acting Head of Certification Mr Lazaro Msasalaga said the public will be notified on when exactly the standard will be fully implemented pending the outcome of ongoing stakeholders meetings and some other final procedures like formulation of the regulations.
But as those few steps are worked out, he says TBS team is set to maintain strict routine surveillance inspection to ensure full compliance to the Standard calling for other stakeholders to be ready for the move as well. "We will have to fight hard to change the present public attitudes over the usage of helmets coupling with serious violation of traffic regulations like dangerous timing at traffic lights and overloading popularly known as 'mishkaki'," he says.
Already, local firms have shown interests in manufacturing helmets locally one of them being the Prison Services Engineering Unit which plans to start doing so by end of this year.