By Kunda Londa
At least four people die in a road traffic accident in Zambia every day.
Before you switch on your engine, please, engage your brain. All accidents are caused, they do not just happen.
It is therefore imperative that we all take time to reflect on causation factors and how you and I can help minimize their occurrence.
Think of it, majority of those killed in these incidents are energetic males and females in the age group of between 19 to 44 years.
This is usually attributed to their being high risk takers exposed to traffic systems for socio-economic reasons.
It is also true that most of the victims are usually vulnerable passengers travelling by public transport and pedestrians who are also reliable family men and women. They account for over 80 per cent of all deaths.
Apart from fatalities, there are those that are left permanently disabled both physically and emotionally as a result of these accidents.
Imagine losing your loved one in this way unexpectedly in a predictable and preventable incident!
The sense of hopelessness and distress to the family that loses a breadwinner or a loved one is unimaginable.
It’s sad to note that many of these accidents are caused by human error (95% of all road fatalities) which include over speeding, drink-driving, overloading, failure to use seat belts, ignoring road signs, etc., mainly by majority male drivers.
It is now common to see most taxi and minibus drivers drive on road shoulders and over-take from the left thereby reducing their passengers’ and other motorists’ safety.
Lest the reader thinks I am giving anecdotal evidence largely based on personal opinion, a ministerial statement delivered to parliament in February 2017 by the Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba covering the period January to 31 to December 2016 shed more light on the gravity of this challenge.
The Minister indicated that 33,672 people died from 32,350 road traffic accidents!
The Zambia Police Service Spokesperson Esther Katongo reported that in the first quarter of 2018, 7,247 road traffic accidents were recorded throughout Zambia.
There were 340 fatal accidents in which 396 people died. Police also reported 1,147 serious accidents in which 673 victims were seriously injured while 1960 people suffered minor injuries from 1,578 slight accidents.
These are not small figures and are growing each day without a comparative behavioural change in motorists.
What is also worrying is that lawlessness on our roads by drivers doesn’t seem to bother their passengers until they become casualties.
According to Zambia Road Safety Trust website, the vast majority of all fatal- injuries including non-fatal injuries in Zambia are not acts of fate but are predictable and preventable.
RTSA reports that injuries are a major healthcare problem and a third leading cause of death.
The site further says For each injury related death, there are 19 hospitalisations for injuries plus 300 injuries that require medical attention.
We can all guess the implication of these figures with families involved, government expenditure and the impact on the economy.
What really are the causes of these accidents? Four major factors come to the fore in addition to human; the environment, vehicles, regulation and enforcement.
Some of the roads in Zambia are pot-holed and dangerous. Government, on its part has shown commitment to make things better on this score.
Still more, some roads lack pedestrian-traffic separation such as walkways, adequate road signs and pedestrian crossings.
The age and fitness of some vehicles on our roads are worrying. This brings in question whether regulation and control are really adequate.
The process of issuing driving licences and vehicle fitness permits is critical because its proper regulation and control greatly influence the quality of vehicles and the behaviour of drivers on the roads.
This is why corruption by law enforcement officers involved in this process is considered an indirect contributing factor to road traffic accidents.
That’s why we say CORRPTION is more powerful than a gun shot. A gunshot kills one person but corruption by an officer issuing fitness permit can kill the whole bus lot.
As indicated above, individual driver behaviour is key to preventing the carnage on our roads.
Most drivers carelessly violate set rules thereby putting their own, motorists’ and other road users’ lives in danger.
It is also true that economic stress as drivers try to make ends meet and people selling merchandise along roads tend to make them neglect road safety precautions.
Research has shown that there are many distractions on the roads, some as funny as a male driver paying undue attention to a walking pretty woman on the pavement!
Whatever the situation, you cannot justify casually damaging other people’s property and spilling innocent blood.
There is need therefore, to really think about everyone who might be impacted negatively by one’s causation of an accident before they step into the driver’s seat.
We all need to wash off innocent blood off our hands by respecting safety rules and taking precautionary measures every time we are behind the wheel.