By Thomas Kagera
As Rwanda National Police marks its 17th anniversary under the flagship of the annual “Police Week”, its Traffic and Road Safety Department has dedicated time during the month-long community development and human security activities, to roll out road safety awareness programmes to all road users; motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
GENESIS, GROWTH IN FACILITIES AND CAPACITIES
Traffic and Road Safety Department is charged with the duty to ensure road safety as stipulated in article 3 of Law no 46/2010 of 14/12/2010 determining the powers, responsibilities, organization and functioning of the Rwanda National Police as modified to date.
In the year 2000 when Traffic and Road Safety Department was formed, it was staffed with a few dozens of officers. Most of Rwanda’s roads were not tarmacked, vehicles were fewer, there were fewer roadside signs, few road markings and few traffic lights, among others.
There was no firm and efficient system in place to enforce traffic rules and regulations and adherence to the rules was often a choice of vehicle operators. 17 years after, Rwanda has a population of around 200,000 vehicles and 20,000 motorcycles.
The number and quality of roads has increased, they are better and getting even much better, the road markings and signs are more and clearer, while the population of towns, Kigali in particular, has grown from 500,000 in 2000 to over 1,000,000 in 2017.
The road security policing landscape has tremendously changed and Traffic and Road Safety Department has had to change with it to fulfill its mandated duties.
Today, RNP has two fixed Motor-vehicle Mechanical Inspection Centres (MIC); one in Remera and another one in Gishali. It also operates a mobile inspection facility. These three technical control equipment, have a combined capacity of inspecting over 700 automobiles per day.
This ensures that vehicles moving in Rwanda are road-worthy and less prone to mechanically induced accidents. Traffic and Road Safety Department is adequately staffed with officers well trained in various skills. It has a fleet of vehicles and high speed motor cycles to intervene when need arises and stress-call-response time has reduced from an average of 60 minutes in 2000 to 15 minutes in 2017.
The department has acquired state- of-the-art equipment including breathalyzers for alcohol detection, speedometers and speed governors for vehicle speed control, Hand Held Devices and Automated Number Plate Recognition machines that have replaced the old manual system used to control traffic offenders.
The former is a cashless system that requires penalized traffic offenders to pay the fine using smart card (i.e. Visa); the latter, is a computerized camera that gets installed in a traffic vehicle that automatically checks the status of vehicles in terms of vehicle inspection status, insurance record, offence record, etc. The installation of traffic surveillance Cameras by the government is another aspect that will also go a long way to discipline drivers.
In terms of vehicle driver’s license, Traffic and Road Safety Department introduced smart driver’s licenses and about 300,000 have been issued to Rwanda residents. On that same note, Traffic and Road Safety Department is in process of establishing a One-Stop Center for Drivers License exams.
The Centre will have the capacity of examining up to 200 people per day for practical driving. Theory test will take only 30 minutes and results will be instant. Rwanda National Police aspires to make the roads in Rwanda as safe as they can be.
This will involve a combination of measures including education of road users online, through media and visits to institutions and schools which have been ongoing, thorough training of traffic and road safety department personnel and acquisition of modern road security policing equipment, partnership with relevant government departments and stakeholders, as well as fighting corruption.
POLICE WEEK ACTIVITIES OF TRAFFIC AND ROAD SAFETY DEPARTMENT
During the week, Police, according to CIP Emmanuel Kabanda, the Traffic and Road Safety Department spokesperson, is conducting several radio and TV talk-shows on road safety and other forms of sensitization using online and print media platforms.
Besides, the police is conducting road safety sessions among motorists, cyclists, members of the public and in schools from 21st May to 1st June.
Throughout the week, special focus has been directed towards creating awareness on the protection of vulnerable road users especially pedestrians.
On the whole, there is good observation of traffic rules in the country, but there is need to accentuate proper road-use among the population bracket of pedestrians and bicycle riders. “You see bi-cyclists do not undergo any form of training as a pre-requisite for licensing them to engage in transporting goods and passengers. Many such riders usually carry heavy loads that surpass the bicycles’ carrying capacities, overtake at spots where they wouldn’t and riding with less regard to other road users, putting their own lives and of others in danger,” explains CIP Kabanda.
Kabanda says that even pedestrians need to be educated on proper road use. “Some pedestrians do not give way to motorist where it is due and do not observe traffic light signals, leading to otherwise avoidable road accidents,” he says.
Educating the masses has therefore been used as a major awareness creation tool, cross-cutting among pedestrians, motorists and cyclists.
MORE INTERVENTIONS FOR BETTER ROAD SAFETY
On a regular basis, Rwanda National Police officers meet with stakeholders in the transport sector, exchange ideas on the best road use practices to ensure road safety for all. “Discussions and dialogue are mainly held between the police and leaders of transport companies and cooperatives in every sector of transport i.e. public passengers’ transport companies, commercial goods transporters, motorists and others as the need may so arise,” explains CIP Kabanda.
In the refresher training process, police work with Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). Currently, the two institutions are working on a Vocation Card which will be issued to public passenger transporters/drivers with a credit reduction code; whenever a driver breaks a traffic rule, some credit will be reduced from their Vocation Card. If all the credit is swiped out, then such a driver will no longer be legible to drive any public passengers’ transporting vehicle in Rwanda.
Other measures that RNP has taken to minimise flouting of road regulations are; use of CCTV cameras, speed guns, traffic patrol vehicles, use of speed governors in public transport vehicles and regular motor vehicle inspection at the Remera Technical Inspection Center. Besides, a mobile vehicle inspection unit has been introduced for the benefit of the far and remote areas from the city of Kigali.
In enforcing traffic rules and regulations, there is zero tolerance to corruption in all its forms among the officers and public. Police officers are, on a daily basis, briefed and warned against the dangers of corruption to their own jobs and national development. “No matter the size of the bribe an officer is caught demanding or taking, the ultimate punishment is outright dismissal,” explains Kabanda.
Corruption among the police officers has been vociferously fought that today more members of the public are arrested trying to bribe police officers.
RNP works with a number of partners in ensuring road safety; members of the public (especially in intelligence-led policing), transport companies and cooperatives, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Health, Rwanda Transport Development Authority and RURA.
Insurance companies also come into the equation in accidents and compensation management, telecommunication companies for bulk SMSs delivery, brewery companies in the responsible drinking/responsible driving campaigns, MINEDUC for road safety sensitization in schools, MINALOC during sensitization programmes and media houses.
Use of IT has been of immense benefit to RNP in the Traffic and Road Safety Department employed in various activities including; online registration and issuance of driver’s license results, ticketing and fining are electronically done, road accident investigations, motor vehicle inspection and motor-vehicle tracking system.
Rwanda Online, through the Irembo platform, has been of great use in registration for driver’s license application, issuance of results and other inquiries.
Thus as a result of the above interventions, the number of accidents especially those involving vehicles and transit trucks in particular has registered a tremendous downward trend. However, pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists still present a challenge to road safety accounting for at least 71 percent of all accidents registered since the beginning of 2017.
The Traffic Week conducted under the flagship of Police Week 2017, will therefore put emphasis on raising awareness among pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists on road safety practices.¬¬