By Elizabeth Lillian Sule Kusasira
Don’t drink and drive! Speed kills! You’ve had these adages over and over. But now, let’s put things into perspective. According to the World Health Organisation, each year, 1.35 million people are killed on roadways worldwide. Almost 3,700 people are killed globally in crashes involving cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, or pedestrians daily. More than half of these are pedestrians, motorcyclists, or cyclists.
Road crash injuries are the eighth-leading cause of death globally, ranking higher than HIV/AIDS. Moreover, road traffic crashes primarily affect the working-age population between 15-64 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fatal and non-fatal traffic accidents have and will cost the World approximately 1.8 trillion dollars from 2015 through to 2030, an equivalent of 0.12% of Global tax.
In Uganda, the cost of traffic accidents has equally been alarming. A report titled “A rapid assessment of road crashes in Uganda; notes from the field” by Abel Wilson Walekhwa et al, reveal that at Mulago National Referral Hospital, an average of 45- 70 victims is received daily with the government spending approximately UGX 13,660,000 per patient with an average admission time of 10 days. This does not even consider the physical, emotional, social, and financial effects on the victims and their families.
According to the Uganda Police road safety guidelines report released in October 2021, 1,407 accidents were registered in September 2021. Of these, 229 people died, and 1,054 were injured in the country. The leading cause was speeding and reckless driving. Now that we have things in perspective. What are the solutions to road accidents?
There are various solutions to road crashes. Road infrastructure planning, design, implementation, and maintenance are some of the major ones. The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) makes deliberate efforts in this regard, playing a key role in preventing road death and serious injury.
Safety is taken into consideration at all road project stages. Road Safety Audits are performed for all roads at the preliminary design phase, detailed design phase, construction phase, and pre-opening phase after all prevention is better than cure.
The Road Safety Audit ensures that the designs provide the following: meet the safety needs of all road users, including vulnerable users such as pedestrians, the visually and mobility impaired; Influence the driver’s choice of speed; that there are no nasty surprises; that they guide, inform and warn the driver about the road ahead with consistency in signs and design elements, and control the driver’s passage through conflict points and other difficult sections.
When in use, UNRA continues to conduct road safety inspections periodically to ensure that the safety performance of the road is maintained and to identify any safety risks. When a crash happens, where possible, measures are put in place to prevent the reoccurrence of another other crash.
Further, UNRA collects black spot data on the network so that targeted remedial measures are put in place to mitigate or eliminate safety problems. According to the Northern Corridor Black Spot Management Guidelines 2021, a black spot is a section of not more than 500 meters where at least ten fatal crashes have occurred in the last five years because of local risk factors. Black spots are identified and analysed, and remedial measures are proposed and monitored after implementation.
UNRA also conducts Star Ratings for road designs to ensure that they meet a three-star rating or better as per the 2030 UN Global Road Safety Performance targets before implementation.
There are more risks that keep popping up that UNRA actively mitigates. For example, uncontrolled developments along the road network create several access points, thereby increasing the road’s safety risks. Every intersection along the roadway has the potential for conflicts between vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles. UNRA has therefore prepared guidelines which will form the basis for approval of requests for access to the road network.
UNRA is also working with the Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT) to provide alternative materials for traffic signs. This has been motivated by the fact that there is rampant vandalism of the current steel and aluminium material since they are attractive to scrap dealers, leaving motorists without proper guidance, warning of hazards and information to navigate the road safely.
UNRA, MOWT, and other road safety organisations also conduct road safety sensitisation on safe road use to schools and other institutions that settle along the project roads and the public in general. The people are educated on the signs and markings, safe crossings, and overtaking, among others.
There are several mitigations that UNRA has put in place to curb road crashes; however, ultimately, an immense responsibility rests on us road users to support these measures, to follow traffic regulations to the dot, and to report any rule violations and or infrastructural breaches to the relevant authorities. Remember “, Speed thrills but kills”.
The writer is the Media Relations Officer Uganda National Roads Authority