Controlling road accidents in Rwanda

Country registered a total of 2,349 road accidents—358 of them fatal A motorcyclist fell off the bike. The passenger’s exercise books were scattered in different directions as the motorbike he was riding lay few meters away with the engine still running.
Speed kills: Local rescue team helping the injured and removing dead bodies from a taxi wreckage.
Speed kills: Local rescue team helping the injured and removing dead bodies from a taxi wreckage.

Country registered a total of 2,349 road accidents—358 of them fatal

A motorcyclist fell off the bike. The passenger’s exercise books were scattered in different directions as the motorbike he was riding lay few meters away with the engine still running.

On inspection, the left side mirror and clutch lever of the bike had broken after this horrible accident near Remera Primary School. Before dusting himself, Policemen from Remera Police station arrived at the accident scene.

They took some measurements, tested his breath, only to find the rider’s alcohol level was above the recommended level. It was over 0.8 mg/ml, a level that medics say increases accidents.

“He is to be charged with drink driving, reckless driving, driving without protective gear and without a permit,” a police officer who rushed at the scene of the accident was heard enumerating the counts as his colleagues loaded the motorcycle on the Police 999 Patrol car.

Three months later the motorcycle is among the hundreds lying at the Traffic Police head office in Nyarugenge, some where picked after the riders abandoned them fearing prosecution.

A visit at the traffic police headquarters is enough to show that many accidents occur in this country but are not captured by the press. Several cars, bicycles and motorcycles that were involved in accidents are parked at the police yard.

Records got from the National Police indicate that almost one person is killed in road accidents daily. The high number of accidents is partly blamed on the lack of road signs.

Kigali City where 95 per cent of the estimated 67,000 vehicles in the country are found has very few road signs. These signs are recommended as they direct  drivers to slow down when approaching humps or a sharp bends.

The signs that exist are in wrong places. “Some are in roundabouts,” Linda Bihire, the Infrastructure Minister explains. Because of these blind spots, the country registered a total of 2,349 road accidents—358 of them were fatal.

Government now wants to erect road signs to control accidents inline with the Global Road Safety Partnership. The partnership recommends that roads should be marked with signs. Global Road Safety Partnership suggests that the signs should be short, clear and immediately understandable.

“The signs have to be erected at a reasonable distance to be read by drivers in time in order to react correctly,” the safety body recommends.

Buro Happold Ltd, a British consultancy firm has been hired to establish the design and specifications of road signs, a sign that government is moving a head to curb road accidents.

“This is not only aimed at improving communication and awareness on our roads, but it is also part of the National Road Safety programme aimed at reducing the number of road accidents and also cut on the unnecessary traffic police on our roads,” Linda Bihire, Infrustructure Minister told The New Times.

Traffic police is more visible than road sings in the country.  The Police are deployed at zebra crossings, black spots and upcountry to ensure road safety.

They check speeding, overloading, driving tired and carrying passengers on trucks, said to be major causes of road accidents in the country. The heavy deployment of traffic police has instilled fear and discipline among drivers.

“They fine us Rwf25,000,” Alphonse Mukasa one of the drivers who has spent more on fines said.

Rwanda National Police has also embarked on a campaign of wooing stakeholders to join in controlling road accidents.

“We should all work together in detecting the use of alcohol by drivers,” Robert Niyonshuti, head of the traffic police said. He asks passengers to always wear safety belts.

“Road related measures like more sign posts and humps are to on our priority agenda,” Niyonshuti said. Some corporate companies have heed police’s call to end roads accidents.

MTN Rwanda and some members of the public recently painted the faded zebra crossing at the Kigali main round about (Kwarubangura).

Before painting, the crossing, it had faded. Pedestrians were rarely noticed and respected if a police officer is not deployed at the place.

Niyonshuti said the number of vehicles in the country has gradually increased.

“The number we register has constantly increased with the highest standing at 11,503 vehicles,” Niyonshuti said.

With the increase, lorries, taxis and motorcycles are responsible for 64 percent of all road accidents and 91 per cent of all the vehicles involved are private.

Without road signs and with most zebra crossings painting faded, motorists seem not to respect other road users and most times pedestrians are knocked. 

Ends

 

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