Thursday, 21 May 2009

Regulating public vehicle drivers can curb accidents

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
This time round it is the overwhelming number of road accidents that is sending shock waves across the country. In the last 21 days alone over 25 people have lost their lives and scores of others have been left with serious injuries. Some of the injured might be amputated. The blame game regarding the cause of the scarring road carnage that has earned Uganda number two position on the globe goes on. Whereas the police blame the rampant accidents on bad driving the drivers themselves point an accusing finger to the bad state of our roads which they claim are very narrow.

Going by the above statistics it means on each day at least one person dies due to road accidents that have mainly been blamed on over speeding or reckless driving and the bad roads.

In my opinion, however, the drivers can play a fundamental role in averting this grim situation. While it is true the roads are potholed and narrow, it is the responsibility of vehicle drivers to know the kind of roads they ride on and slow down their speed, be conscious of other road users and properly interpret the road signs and respect traffic regulations.

If all passenger service vehicle (PSV) drivers knew how important road signs are important, probably, we would be witnessing less of this road bloodbath in the country. Most of the PSV drivers are school drop outs or even have not been in school. This implies they cannot read properly or read at all. Yet road signs require reading and thus correct interpretation to use the roads without harming others.

A big chunk of PSV drivers have not gone through thorough training in the driving schools. This is worsened by lack of or little regulation of the existing driving schools. A fact that leaves the public service vehicle users at the mercy of these arrogant and half-trained drivers.

A comparison of drivers of public figures and of government vehicles for that matter with PSV drivers shows that there are qualifications for one to become a government vehicle driver. One of such requirements is that one has to at least have an O' level certificate of education but nothing of this kind is required of drivers in the public transport vehicles. This is why it is possible for someone who has been a wheelbarrow pusher or heavy load lifter in the bus or taxi park can turn out a self-styled PSV driver by the mere fact that he knows how to turn the steering. And this will go unnoticed by policy makers. It is observed that there are fewer government vehicles getting involved in accidents than the PSVs.

This can thus correlate with the idea that drivers of particular level of education are more cautious in their use of the road than their PSV counterparts. Government should thus wake up to rein in the errant PSV drivers and set the minimum standards and qualifications for one to drive PSV. The PSV drivers carry passengers whose life they need to value by being more careful as they drive.

Traffic police should weigh in those vehicles in dangerous mechanical conditions routinely. Driving licenses are not enough in themselves to make one pass for a genuine driver given that the environment in which driving is taught is not adequately regulated. Life is so precious and sweet that no one likes to lose it.

We need a police force that is incorruptible, however, to be able to prevent the country's worrying road accident death toll.

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