9 November 2017

Rwanda: Police, Partners Discuss Road Safety

Rwanda National Police (RNP) and its partners including ministries, parastatals, transporters, insurance companies and driving schools, yesterday, held a meeting to discuss the state of roads in the country and to take joint measures to further curb road carnage.

The ministries include that of Justice, Health, Infrastructure, Education, Local Government, as well as Rwanda Transport Development Authority (RTDA), Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA), and Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) as well as heads of commercial motorcyclists and cyclists.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Emmanuel K. Gasana and the mayor of City of Kigali, Pascal Nyamulinda.

It comes in a period when road traffic accidents are perceived to increase in the festive months of November and December.

Gasana said that fatalities and injuries cannot be allowed to continue, and that preventing loss of lives and property should primarily be part of management of transport companies to ensure that their drivers understand and observe road safety standards.

"We are reviewing measures to ensure that where possible, companies that are caught in serious and life-threatening offences, be suspended or stripped of their license, and the same goes to individual drivers," Gasana said.

Mayor Nyamulinda hinted on the indiscipline of drivers on roads, and poor management of their transport companies that mind about money but not the conduct of their drivers.

While giving a presentation of the state of road safety in the country, the Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety department, Commissioner of Police (CP) George Rumanzi, said that previous measures such as introduction of speed governors have been instrumental in curbing fatalities to at least 65 percent in the last eight months, compared to the same period last year.

He, however, said that human behavior such as driving while drunk, overloading, speeding and overtaking in hotspots like sharp corners, among others, continue to be the main cause of fatalities, with pedestrians the majority victims accounting for 46 percent of those killed in the last three months alone.

Motorcyclists account for 18.5 percent of fatalities while cyclists comprise of 17 percent.

At least 76 percent of the total crashes registered between August and October, occurred in the countryside.

Meanwhile, motorcyclists account for majority 28 percent of the 254 serious injuries registered in the same period; pedestrians 21 percent; while cyclists and public service vehicles are at 23 percent each.

"Road safety is hinged on three pillars; education, engineering, enforcing the law, and evaluation, which all informs the next course of action," he said.

The engineering pillar focuses on road maintenance, erecting signage, installing crash barriers, mechanical inspection of vehicles, among others.

Next course of action

Among strategies to continue to curb road carnage as discussed during the meeting, include drafting road safety training and sensitization manual to be adopted in school curriculums and to guide awareness countrywide, revising and enacting punitive laws against offenders including criminalizing fatal accidents.

Currently, the law specifies a maximum of six months in prison for any person, who cause fatal accident, although this law is said to be weak and easily challenged in court, with financial penalties almost the only available option.

The new laws if adopted, as discussed during the meeting, should also easy the process of withdrawing driver's and operational license including those of transport companies or individuals caught in life-threatening traffic offences.

In the last four years alone, only one person out of thousands of hundreds of cases taken to courts has been stripped off the driver's license.

It was found out that some driving schools and car owners manipulate their vehicles' mechanical systems as means to acquire mechanical inspection certificate, while public transporters manipulate speed governors, and under the suggested new laws would see such drivers or companies losing their license.

The process is also underway to install GPS in motorcycles for easy tracking in case of traffic offence, installation of CCTV cameras on roads, and identifying more black spots.

The meeting also resolved that new laws governing electronic tracking devices in enforcing road safety be established while motor-vehicle registration process be reviewed to individualise number plates.

This would mean that if an automobile is sold to another person, he or she will be given another plate number, and that this will help in identifying car owners and offenders.

Currently, it is said that a vehicle can be sold in chain without transferring ownership, and this has in most cases proved to be a challenge to law enforcers to track owners when it is involved in an offence.

Other measures include transport companies to introduce defensive driving courses for their drivers; screening and blacklisting their drunk drivers; and training teachers on road safety to extend similar safety guidelines to their students.

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