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Urgent measures needed to tame the scourge of road carnage

MAY , 2019 has certainly descended down the memories of most Tanzanians but certainly not to the grieving families of Anael Mbise, Shaybu Jumbe and Stanry Julius.

The trio tragically passed on in separate road crash incidents during May. Leaving indelible scars behind their families, friends and relatives who are still mourning them and finding it difficult to easily cope with the unexpected, untimely loss of their loved ones.

They were so full of life when their dreams were cut short in a blip of seconds in separate road crashes, as this would henceforth subject the deceased’s families into excruciating soreness.

Mbise, 48, who served as Senior Superintendent of Police, decided to take time off from the rigorous nature of his duties as Ilala Regional Crimes Officer. He opted to travel all the way to his native village.

It was on the 7th of May when he started the approximately 391 miles journey from Dar es Salaam to Arusha, certainly, envisioning a great holiday time back to the village.

Fateful, little did Mbise know his precious life would be stolen away from him, not in the battlefield where it is almost impossible to avoid a gunshot, but on the road where crashes are largely preventable.

His car, a Toyota Prado crashed head on with a minibus in Mwanga District, Kilimanjaro Region, killing him on the spot. His body was eventually taken to his home village Kikatiti in Arumeru, Arusha, where he was laid to rest.

With the memories of Mbise’s tragic death still afresh, social media revealed yet another tragic end to a life on the road. One Shayb Jumbe, in his early twenties passed on in another horrifying road crash on the Dar–Tanga highway.

Jumbe’s tragedy went viral, possibly because the teenager was very active online, regularly updating his friends about his whereabouts and activities. “Sometimes the best therapy is a long drive and music,” posted Shayb Jumbe on February, this year, accompanying the message with a photo of him in front of his saloon car.

Three months after sharing this post, a supposedly leisurely long route drive turned into disaster. Jumbe’s saloon car crashed head on with another vehicle. Pitifully, the tragedy struck a very young family.

Jumbe passed away hardly a month he had tied knots with one Nourath Aman. The young couple never had enough time to even fully enjoy their honeymoon. Jumbe’s shock death was swiftly followed by another deadly road crash, just a day later.

The country’s law fraternity was hit by sad news; the sudden and untimely death of a young advocate Mr Stanry Julius. The car that Julius was driving flew off the road and caught fire, killing him and two other persons instantly.

According to a female traffic officer who happened to be close to the scene the crash occurred shortly after the late Julius had been fined for over-speeding.

“He was caught overspeeding by a fellow traffic officer and was fined 30,000/- for the offense,” revealed the traffic officer who preferred anonymity, as she is not the spokesperson of police.

According to her, the speed the late Julius was driving at was dangerous because that section of the road is characterized by slopes and sharp bends. “It’s apparent that he failed to control the car due to speeding,” she says.

Almost every other day, a family in Tanzania loses a loved one owing to road crashes involving a private car. The spate of fatal crashes involving private cars is worrying, as they occur more frequently compared to those involving passenger vehicles.

A pilot study on the ‘distribution of fatalities and injured by vehicle type conducted in 2015 by Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra, now LATRA), shows that private cars caused 203 deaths and 239 severe injuries.

Almost two times of the fatalities and three times severe injuries caused by trucks , 103 deaths, and 70 severe injuries respectively. Passenger Service V ehicles (PSV ), daladala crashes caused 88 deaths, and 86 severe injuries), whilst PSV buses crashes resulted in 76 fatalities and 57 severe injuries.

The study indicates that private cars were involved in 18 percent of crashes and account for 20 percent of fatalities.

“Drivers of private cars are involved in many accidents and many of the crashes are single vehicle crashes and head-on crashes that could indicate high speed… .,”reads part of the report. Speed is also the number one cause for pedestrian deaths.

The latest World Health Organization (WHO), Global Road Safety Status report released December, 2018 reveals that pedestrians accounted for majority of road fatalities in Tanzania, whereby 30 percent of all road deaths involved walkers.

Ramadhan Mohamed, 54, is a long-serving truck driver, who often drives oil tanks between Dar es Salaam and Kigali, Rwanda, he says he cannot recall the number of fatal crashes he has ever witnessed while driving along the central corridor.

“So many crashes, some of them very disturbing, you can hardly look at the victims twice,” says Mohamed, who blames drivers of small private vehicles for the high crash toll on highways “Drivers of private cars are some of the most reckless on the road.

You wonder whether they even went to school for driving,” he laments, insisting that a welltrained driver always exercise optimum caution when using the road.

Excessive speeding is to blame for a chunky of fatal crashes on Tanzanian roads, particularly highways, admits Traffic Police Commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Fortunatus Musilimu.

He says driving at unmanageable speed, especially among young drivers, is a major factor for unnecessary crashes and resultant road fatalities.

The review of the existing situation regarding road safety in Tanzania by the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority, (Sumatra, now Land Transport Regulatory Authority, Latra) also points to speeding as a leading cause of road crashes.

“The fact an accident has happened indicates the one or more drivers were travelling at a speed which exceed their ability to react and avoid a collision,” says the report titled ‘Improvement of Road Safety in Tanzania Mainland, 2017.’

Efforts to address speeding among motorists are apparently undermined by the existing law regime which does not impose maximum speed limits for a certain category of cars.

“It is a challenge especially with private cars because of lack of maximum speed limit law for certain categories of cars beyond built up areas and the leading culprits are private cars as well as government vehicles,” says Mr John Seka, the chairman of Road Safety Ambassadors in Tanzania.

Mr Seka says failure to control speeding behaviour by drivers of private cars is a worrying problem and a big concern for road safety stakeholders, noting that pedestrians are the most vulnerable.

Currently, there are three general speed limits stipulated by law: according to Section 51 of the Road Traffic Act of 1973, the speed limit for vehicles with more than 3.5 tonnes is 80 km/h.

For trucks and buses, the general speed limit on all road types, except on urban roads, is 80 km/h. In built-up areas, the speed limit is according to the Act, that is, 50 km/h for all vehicles but may occasionally locally be set at 6 0 km/h.

“The current legislation and therefore the enforcement activities fail to provide any meaningful deterrent factors,” it says.

While the study notes that the speed limits set within the traffic laws are simple and functional, the fact that there is no maximum speed limits for private cars and vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, outside built-up areas, makes room for crashes.

According to the ‘Sumatra’ report, ‘Improvement of Road Safety in Tanzania Mainland (2017)’, the standard of the road network outside the main urban areas, in the main, is not designed to be driven at high speeds.

The original design specification was set at 110 km/h; however, the current condition of the road network would suggest this speed is now unsafe, says the report.

“From a road safety prospective, a maximum speed limit for all private cars should be set,” insists the 16 7-page report.

The chain of grim crashes involving private cars has sparked debate among road safety stakeholders about the urgent about the urgent need for a comprehensive review of the current speed limits to ensure they comply with internationally accepted road safety standards.

They thus demand the law to provide maximum speed limit for private cars using the network outside of an urban limit and this is recommended to be a maximally at 100 km/h.

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Author: ABDALLAH MSUYA

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