Brian’s column this month focuses on a serious trend that has says has emerged in Africa; the disturbing act of the ‘hit and run’, a devastating action that destroys lives and illustrates a lack of human emotion in the time of a road traffic crash. As always, Brian’s column is thought provoking and offers us an insight into his perception of the road safety situation in Africa.
Happy valentines day (English), Joyeux Saint valentine (French) furaha valentines siku (Swahili) Ofcourse this message goes out to those who celebrated or celebrate such kind of days. If you are not African, then you don’t know that such a day comes with a new uniform on the busiest streets in each country. You will inevitably not miss to see what will seem like some form of uniform-a neatly ironed, matching black and red attire in the mix. You will later realise that, the day gets even more interesting in the evenings among couples. You will see young people having what they prefer calling a ‘blast’. Easy tiger…when you become alittle observant (as I like to do often-may God forgive me for putting my long nose in other people’s businesses), you will realize they are not drinking milk, water or Coca-Cola Zero (that’s my latest drug lol) in those small-sized glasses. When you become extra inquisitive, you will very often see that they will either leave the bar or whatever that place is, on a motorcycle or a car since transport by metros is not a common site yet. What happens once they are on the road, only Satan (the only guy who is blamed for all the bad things) knows because in less than a second, lives are lost.
There is however a tactic that has successfully managed to establish itself in the bone marrow of a number of road users in Africa. The road users in this case include the pedestrians, the motocyclists, cyclists and drivers of motorcycles. This tactic is called Hit & Run! Now, this famous trick comes with no surprise masks considering that it was used in successfully executing missions to do with sorting out inter tribal wars. Hit-and-run tactics is a tactical doctrine where the purpose of the combat involved is not to seize control of territory, but to inflict damage on a target and immediately exit the area to avoid the enemy’s defense and/or retaliation. This phenomenon seems to be catching on among drivers who run over people. In the case of an accident, such kind of drivers make sure thy drive in high gear and run away from the casualty leaving him or her to die. More sad to say is, other drivers or cyclists make sure they have killed, rather than merely injured the victim because, according to common argument, it is more costly and time consuming to deal with an injured person than in cases where the victim has died. So, the casualty literally dies when he /she is not supposed to die considering that the response time (the time taken for the emergency medical services to be activated and respond is between 1hour often leading to days as well).
The hit and run tactic has some information pothole as regards the law in Africa. When you knock someone who is carelessly crossing the road, you have no case to answer. But if investigations reveal that you were in the wrong, then you are taken to the magistrate’s court which passes a sentence according to the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act. Section 108 of the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act states that a driver who causes an accident commits an offence and can be imprisoned for two years or fined between 600USD and 1600USD in court.The court which convicts a person may award to any person injured by the offence or the dependant of any person whose death arises out of the commission of the offence, compensation not exceeding 50% of any fine paid by the convicted person in respect of the offence.The Acts states that in the case of an accident, arising directly or indirectly from the use of a motor vehicle, it is the driver’s duty to render all practicable assistance to the injured person. The injured person or the dead victim’s family can then file a civil suit for compensation for injury or loss of life. You will notice that many people lack legal knowledge and do not pursue civil matters, which sometimes requires hiring an expensive lawyers. To avoid all this bureaucracies and legalities, African drivers prefer to use the short cut of either killing the casualty completely or rapidly escaping out of the scene.
We already know, economically, the Injury Control Centre Uganda (ICCU) estimates that road accidents cost about 2.7% of the country’s GDP in terms of lives, injury, vehicle loss and other property lost. These figures are not any different from for example Niger (2.5%), Kenya (2.6%), Nigeria (2.5%). The rapid motorization in Africa has increased the volume of vehicles moving on the continent’s infamous single-lane roads, yet roads have not been improved and widened from those built in the colonial days. Even worse, Africa’s traffic is not segregated. Lorries, trailers, buses, commuter minibuses, saloon cars, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelbarrows and pedestrians use the same narrow roads.
Oh..then there is this guy called human error.Human error accounts for about 80% of road traffic accidents in the Africa, according to the Global Road Safety Authority. This of course includes reckless driving, speeding, inconsiderate use of the road, careless or ignorant pedestrians, incompetent drivers and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prescribed speed limit for buses and trucks is 80 kilometres per hour and for other vehicles, 100 kilometers per hour. Reckless bus drivers claim more lives on highways because many drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs and fatigue, and sometimes overtake a stretch of cars at black spots, in dangerous corners and on slopes. Now, personally, I don’t think there is any human error in stopping and offering any form of first aid to the casualty!
While Mr. Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is right when at the 2nd African Conference on Road Safety in Addis Ethiopia, Novemmber 2011 blamed the Poor road networks, inadequate road signage, limited knowledge on road safety, poorly enforced legislation and the poor emergency-preparedness by medical facilities. And that road crashes are the second leading cause of death for the able body age group in African countries and “they exact a heavy toll on African economies.”, the famous spirit of communitarianism in Africa seems to be getting diluted. In Africa, we were (are) known for caring for others, our neighbours and even strangers. It becomes a real paradox when African drivers run over some one and they leave them to die…where is our #humanity and #Communitarian values. Shall the real African (with those values) please stand up and be counted?
(This article can also be viewed at http://www.youthforroadsafety.org/activities/news/news_item/t/brian_s_column_hit_runs_in_africa_ndash_a_dangerous_trend_needs_change )