The Minister of State in the Ministry of Infrastructure in Charge of Transport, Eng. Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye has challenged owners and heads of public transport companies to evaluate and monitor their drivers in order to ensure maximum road safety standards and prevent accidents.
Flanked by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Emmanuel K Gasana, the Minister made the remarks while addressing over a hundred representatives of public transport companies and cooperatives during a meeting held at police headquarters on Thursday.
The meeting aimed at exploring ways to mitigate road accidents.
Statistics released during the meeting indicate that 2607 road accidents were recorded between January and September this year.
Among those 66 percent involved commercial motorcyclists.
At least 177 fatalities and 345 injuries were recorded from the accidents that happened within the last nine months.
Reacting on the statistics, the Minister said, “We can’t afford to lose a single life over the recklessness of some people. By the time you are given a certificate as a public transporter, know that you have been handed serious responsibilities that involve human lives.”
Uwihanganye pointed out some of the malpractices within public transport sector such as low wages to drivers, abnormal targets that companies set for drivers and abuse of traffic rules.
“Some companies give their drivers a target of 800 passengers a day. In an attempt to achieve that, they over speed and violate traffic rules which eventually leads to accidents. Also a driver whose contracts indicate a net pay of Rwf 190,000 may eventually take home Rwf50,000 because of failure to meet the abnormal targets,” said the Minister of State.
The ration of buses to passengers is 1:120.
Uwihanganye called for collective efforts to ensure that issues within transport companies and commercial motorcycle cooperatives are streamlined in the interest of the passengers.
Police records indicate that bus accidents constituted 24 percent of the number of accidents recorded in the last nine months while lorries and trailers constituted 10 % and 5% respectively.
In his address, IGP Gasana said; “We have managed to secure Rwanda from enemy threats; we can't afford to lose lives of our people to road accidents.”
The police chief called on public transport companies and cooperatives to always ensure quality service delivery in their trade.
He pointed out that human behavior is the major cause of road accidents.
“You should know the personalities, behaviors and integrity of the drivers before you hire them as means of avoiding hiring reckless drivers…Strategic planning and effective administration will boost business and mitigate road accidents.”
The Police Chief went on to urge them to lay strategies to ensure road safety and management of their vehicles and drivers.
“Rwanda’s main resource is its people that’s why we should collectively ensure we protect Rwandans from any harm however minor is perceived…in this context we may consider asking for suspension of transport companies that record a high number of their vehicles involved in the accident,” he said.
During the meeting, Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety, CP George Rumanzi, presented the status of road security, with most accidents attributed to reckless, drunk-driving, and over speeding, among others.
Key issues highlighted at the meeting include disorganisation in taxi- moto cooperatives, lack of background checks and supervision of drivers, fraudulent exchange of vehicle parts in quest for a road worthiness certificate – an issue common in Fuso trucks, drivers working overtime and poor speed governor systems among others.
The proprietor of volcano express, Olivier Nizeyimana who also doubles as the president of the Rwanda Association of public Transporters (ATPR), said it’s a shame to find people losing lives at the hands of transporters.
Several measures were taken during the meeting, including reorganising commercial motorcycles cooperatives, frequent background checks, trainings, testing drivers and strict enforcement of road traffic rules.