The horrific acident that happened this week brings to the fore once again a number of shortcomings in the road transport sector.
But as usual, the Road Transport and Safety Agency has issued a stale statement to the effect that “traffic patrols will be intensified……….” Really? How many roads will they patrol? All the highways? All the Streets? Will they accompany all drivers in the land to ensure they obey traffic rules all the time? How many roads have they patrolled so far and how effective have they been?
The current traffic situation is nothing less than chaotic wherever one goes. RTSA must first recognise the following if they must succeed :
(a) the majority of drivers in Zambia – from Spacio drivers to truck or bus drivers – have had neither formal driver training nor undergone the necessary driving tests to acquire a license;
(b) the majority of our roads bear no warning signs as to the condition of the roads (including unmarked speed humps), or indeed route directions;
(c) the great majority of our drivers are semi-literate and, therefore, incapable of comprehending the few existing road signs or warnings borne by other vehicles or signalled by other drivers;
(d) potholes or gulleys on major roads are frequently left to grow until some serious accident happens, in spite of the existence of RTSA (“safety agency”?) et al;
(e) clearly dangerous and unroadworthy trucks, such as the timber trucks that ply the Copperbelt roads every hour of the day, are nonchalantly waved on by Zambia Police traffif officers after routinely extorting “fines” from their drivers;
(f) from the street vendors’ messy corridoors, the undisciplined and carefree mindframe of a yob driver has spilled onto the unforgiving motorways across the nation.
These are just but a few of the indicators of a broken-down system. What we need is serious soul-searching, followed by admission by the nation and government of an existing crisis, to be followed by necessary action to medicate the crisis – rather than go by the usual “………traffic patrols will be intensified……..a dual carriageway is required (really?)………Satan’s agents have intensified their sacrificial activities……”
Patrolmen will never be everywhere all the time. What we need is sustained public education in road safety for all road users (drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians) with the few resources we already have, to be preceded by a thorough purge of RTSA and Zambia Police traffic departments.
The public education could be in the form of continuous and regular road safety snippets in English and vernacular languages on radio and television, to be compulsorily aired free of charge by all radio, television and mobile phone operators in Zambia. And to constantly jog every road user’s mind, both persuasive and shock visuals should be put up on billboards along the roads across the country. Other measures:
(a) owners of trucks or indeed any other vehicles that break down and stop very dangerously on the road, quite often for hours or days, must be compelled to have them towed off, failure to which they must be heavily fined;
(b) construct, yes, construct road signs made of brick or concrete blocks at junctions, curves etc. to inform or warn drivers about road structures or streches (there have after all been excuses by town councils or RTSA about tin signs being stolen by tinpot makers, or vandalised by anti-social characters;
(c) introduce a locally controlled budget for road maintenance rather than continue with Lusaka controlling and supervising all works in Zambia;
If the government is really determined, these things are feasible. Watch….three, four days or one week after this week’s accident it will be business-as-usual for RTSA.
Paul K Chirwa