By Dr Moses Amweelo ROAD accidents place a heavy burden on global and national economies and household finances. Many families are driven into poverty by the loss of breadwinners and the added burden of caring for members disabled by road accidents.
According to the road accidents in Namibia statistical report 2007, every year Namibia records over 10 000 vehicle crashes, 3 000 injuries and 300 deaths, and most of those injured, disabled and killed fall in the age range of between 17 and 59 years.
Car accidents otherwise known as car crashes, auto accidents, road accidents, or car wrecks, is a condition in which one vehicle collides with another vehicle or some object in the road, resulting either in injury of a person or the damage of a property.
Sometimes, road as well as bad weather or environmental conditions also lead to road accidents. An analysis of crashes in the state of Victoria, Australia, suggests that not being sufficiently visible is a factor in 65 percent of crashes between cars and motorized two-wheelers and the sole cause in 21 percent of them.
A meta-analysis of the effect of using daytime running lights found a 10 -15 percent reduction in daytime crashes involving more than one party.
A few countries currently require the fitting and use of daytime running lights. The research in Germany has also shown that nearly 5 percent of severe truck accidents can be traced back to poor visibility of the truck or its trailer at night. In these cases, car drivers failed to recognize trucks turning off the road, turning around or driving ahead of them.
A number of road accidents involve drivers who fail to see other road users in the blind spots that exist in the area immediately around their vehicles.
When larger vehicles such as trucks or buses are involved, these accidents frequently lead to serious injuries or even fatalities among vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists or drivers of motorized two wheelers (World report on road traffic injury prevention).
The other contributing factors to road accidents that have been identified on the Namibian road are speeding and overloading.
Recently we have experienced road accidents involving busses and trucks.
On 11 October 2013, the school bus transporting 13 children from the Waldorf School overturned where a woman was seriously injured, while the other road accident happened at Aussenkehr farm on 10 October 2013, where a truck overloaded with 200 workers overturned when the driver allegedly failed to negotiate a curve and 139 workers were injured in this mass casualty.
Some workers complained the trucks transporting them to work are not even roadworthy. While some others were asking themselves what mode of transport should be used to transport workers?
Last Saturday evening (19 October) seven youths aged between 16 and 23 died from an accident in Katima Mulilo where a Toyota bakkie overturned when the driver is suspected to have failed to negotiate a curve in the road. The Regulation 266 of the Road Traffic and Transport Regulations of 2001 clearly stipulate that, "A person may not operate a goods vehicle conveying persons on a public road unless that portion of the vehicle in which such persons are being conveyed is enclosed to a height of at least 350 millimeters above the surface upon which such person is seated, or at least 900 millimeters above the surface on which such person is standing, in a manner and with a material of sufficient strength to prevent such person from falling from that vehicle when it is in motion."
Therefore, it is strongly recommended the owners of trucks and drivers must fully comply with the provisions of this regulation, with a view to reduce the road accidents at the minimum acceptable level.
The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) must continue to conduct regular provide safety education and awareness campaigns, as it is tasked with the responsibility of promoting road safety and disseminating road safety information to all concerned.
In addition, there is driver behaviour such as the driver's awareness of and compliance with traffic rules or driver fatigue. According to traffic safety secretariat road safety research, faulty tyres have been identified as threat to the mobility and lives of road users.
The pressing question is how can we bring down road accidents on our national roads? The most important method to bring down road accidents is strict enforcement of speed limits. Ninety percent of accidents can be avoided by strict enforcement of speed limits.
Heavy penalties should be imposed on all those who cross speed limits. If this is strictly implemented, nobody will dare drive at speed. Tamper-proof speed controllers should be made mandatory for all heavy-duty vehicles.
New gadgets are to be developed for collision prevention and should be fitted on all vehicles.
The research organisations should be asked to develop such gadgets, for example, gadgets can be developed to automatically slow down the vehicle, if a safe distance commensurate with the speed of the vehicle in front is not maintained. Gadgets can be developed for warning the driver, if the driver sleeps.
Finally with regard to the tyres problems, it is recommended that educational campaigns should be launched to inform drivers and tyre dealers about the possible effects of used tyres.
It is crucial that drivers are taught to inspect tyres before purchasing them, while they should also inform themselves of the speed required for specific tyres and the utilization of different tyres.
The author is a veteran Swapo Member of Parliament (MP), who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on ICT.