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Road safety: Urgent action remains imperative

ON a cool Sunday evening, a small crowd gathered at the National Museum in the heart of Dar es Salaam for a special service to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

It was a special occasion to remember those who were killed and injured on the roads, together with families, friends and many others affected. The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is commemorated around the globe by road safety stakeholders, normally on the third Sunday of November each year.

This time the commemoration fell on November 17. A special prayer and candle lighting took place in remembrance of those who died in road crashes under the coordination of the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA), a secretariat of the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations Advocating for Improved Road Safety Legal and Policy Environment in Tanzania.

Attending the service were lawyers, media practitioners, government officials, media practitioners, religious leaders and law enforcers. The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, launched ten years ago, has become an important tool in global efforts to reduce road casualties.

It offers an opportunity for drawing attention to the scale of emotional and economic devastation caused by road crashes.

By commemorating the day, road safety stakeholders also seek to recognize the suffering of road crash victims and the work of support and rescue services whilst reflecting on the tremendous burden and cost of this daily continuing disaster to families and communities, and on ways to halt it.

Most significantly, the Day serves as a platform to educate the public on the road safety crisis, to mobilize political will and resources to address the problem. Road deaths and injuries are sudden, violent, traumatic events.

Their impact is long-lasting, often permanent. Tanzania is hardest hit by daily accident deaths and casualties on the roads. Only seventeen countries are faring better in this regard. Although various measures have been taken by the government, enforcement agencies and NGOs, accidents and fatalities rates remain a huge concern among road safety stakeholders.

Last year’s death toll was reportedly 1,788 people according the Traffic Police department’s data. The risk of dying on Tanzanian roads, 29.2 deaths per 100,000 population as estimated by the World Health Organisation, is over three times higher than in high income countries whose average of 8.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Tanzania is among countries whose road traffic laws are yet to meet international best practices around key risk factors like speeding, drinking and driving, use of seat-belts, use if helmets and child restraints.

Over the past few years, the CSOs coalition on Road Safety has been orchestrating road safety legal and policy reforms in the country, by addressing gaps in the existing Road Traffic legislation that link directly to current high rate of road carnages.

As part of its contribution towards legal reforms, the coalition recently issued a revised version of Position Paper titled ‘The Road Traffic Act – Gaps for Amendments with Recommendations and Justifications for Improvements. The paper details on existing gaps in relation to five key risk factors of speeding, helmet use, seat belt use, drink driving and use of child restraints, with mobile phone use while driving also added.

TAWLA Vice-Chairperson Advocate Happiness Mchaki, addressing stakeholders during the commemoration, said a quick solution to persistent road crashes is the proposed amendment of outdated Road Traffic Act of 1973.

She noted efforts to have the legislation amended are yet to bear fruits after almost three years of robust campaigns but remained optimistic the government will send the Bill to the parliament for first reading in the next House meeting.

The Chairman of the Council of the Pentecostal Churches in Tanzania (CPCT) Pastor Peter Konki public education and awareness campaign should be a key pillar and solution for increasing road safety in the country.

“Ticketing cannot reduce road crashes, we need to focus on education, we should incorporate road safety in schools curriculums…we need to impart road safety education from the grassroots,” said Pastor Konki. Life is not a car part “Life is not a car part” was this year’s theme.

The theme is based on pillar three of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety – Safer vehicles. “You can replace a destroyed car part but life cannot be replaced,” said Board Member of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), Gladness Munuo, reflecting on the theme.

Pillar three concerns the prevailing low standards of vehicles, which contribute to a significant number of crashes and casualties. The objective of this pillar is to encourage deployment of improved vehicle safety norms and technologies for both passive and active safety.

Unfortunately, the current legislation ail in all key vehicle standards namely, electronic stability control vehicle standard, frontal impact vehicle standard, pedestrian protection vehicle standard and motorcycle anti-lock braking system.

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