What price are we willing to pay while on our roads?

According to current projections from those concerned, Uganda’s biggest road project will be open to users by the end of March. I am talking about the Entebbe Expressway that was constructed with the aim of making it easy for travellers to make it from Kampala city to Entebbe in the shortest time possible.

According to current projections from those concerned, Uganda’s biggest road project will be open to users by the end of March. I am talking about the Entebbe Expressway that was constructed with the aim of making it easy for travellers to make it from Kampala city to Entebbe in the shortest time possible.

I believe the project was designed after coming to the realisation that making it from Kampala to Entebbe was one of the most disturbing driving experiences in the region.

You see, unlike other East African countries, Uganda’s main airport is not in the city. It is in Wakiso District (Entebbe) and more often one has to drive for about 40 kilometres before they can check in and board their flight.

During the colonial times, Entebbe was the centre of action before things moved to Kampala. So at one point developments were in Entebbe and Kampala and little much in between. Today, the whole section from Kampala to Entebbe is built up with homes, schools, churches, factories and entertainment spots by the shores of Lake Victoria.

Therefore over the years traffic on that road has grown literally to a standstill. It is also in Entebbe that you find the main residence of the president better known as State House, meaning he has right of way which further complicates traffic flow.

What is annoying is that so many other people have escort cars and use this road. If it is not the president it will be one of the over 70 ministers, army bigwigs, justices, and heads of government authorities and of course ambulances.

The new expressway is meant to allow anyone else to enjoy the privilege of driving at faster speeds and hopefully not have to be pushed off the road. This will come at a small fee though.  The road will have a toll station where those intending to use it have to part with a small fee for the maintenance of the road and a contribution to paying back the loan from our Chinese friends.

The good people at Uganda National Roads Authority are yet to determine how much one will have to pay before using this expressway. They are still trying to figure out a price that won’t be too much and not too low.

In a way this got me thinking about the recent talk in Rwanda that the Traffic Department of the Rwanda National Police is considering a proposal to increase the fines for traffic offences. One those earmarked is usage of mobile phones while driving. They argue that many accidents arise from this as the drivers’ get distracted by these gadgets.

The folks at Kacyiru (Police HQs) are so serious on this they want to even loop in usage of hands free headsets because they argue that the distraction remains even if one doesn’t have to hold the phone. I only wonder how they will deal with situations where for example one uses their phone to listen to directions from that lady at Google when using Google maps. After all Kigali is aiming to be a smart city.

That said I have no problem with increased traffic fines if they can make our roads safer. The road carnage on our roads is quite disturbing and one of the enablers has been weak enforcement of traffic regulations. Sometimes it due the poor road designs that leave us with black spots on our highways. Then we have the cars in dangerous mechanic conditions and police officers more keen on surprising road users instead of simply doing their job. The corruption in the police forces has never helped matters.

I was deeply disturbed by news that four Senior Four students in Uganda died after a car they had allegedly stolen from home, crashed into a stationery truck as they drove to their school to pick their results. The youthful rebellion in them is what probably drove them into wanting to show off to their colleagues. They even had time to post a final video on Facebook as they drove.

When you think about how such young children get the confidence to get behind the wheel on a highway, you can appreciate the need for us to pay more in fines than hospital bills or (God forbid) funeral expenses.

Views, expressed in this article are those of the author.

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