The Minister for Home Affairs, Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi, told the august House in Dodoma that Between January and December, last year the juggernauts on two wheels, many of which are substandard and rather too heavy, caused 5,763 deaths and left 5,532 people injured.
Dar es Salaam had the largest share of the accidents at 2,479. Although motorbikes have been welcome as a cheap and more flexible form of transport, the price some passengers have already paid is outrageous – deaths or disabilities.
The minister has called on the state to step in and stem the rot, but it is not clear what will exactly be done in the near future to save the situation. The minister says that at the moment more than 10,000 motorbikes are operating countrywide.
It is these bikes, many of which carry two or more passengers at a time, which have been exempted from business taxation simply because “they offer a livelihood to jobless youths.” But, as fate would have it, it is these jobless youths who mishandle the bikes.
The danger posed by the situation is that many of the youths do not have adequate riding skills and nearly all of them do not know Traffic Rules and Regulations. And needless to say, some of them hardly apprehend the messages on roadside signs.
Most of the road signs in this country “speak” English, a language that most motorbike riders do not know. Some of the most important road signs read: “Children crossing” “Heavy duty trucks turning ahead,” “Slow down,” “No entry”and “Men at work.”
Others say: “Stop,” “Turn right,” “Turn left” or “Go.” There are numerous road signs that motorists must obey. The trickiest signs for illiterate motorbike riders are the dumb signs such as arrows indicating direction, children holding hands, cows walking or plain circles. If most motorbike riders do not know the rudiments of traffic rules and regulations the nation should not expect miracles.
Accidents will continue to spiral virtually out of control. It is near-impossible to ground the 10,000 bikes and train their riders. But, somehow, a solution to this problem must be sought. The state often offers free education on traffic rules and regulations for drivers and motorcycle riders in a quest to curb accidents. But the effort is often a drop in the ocean.
All drivers and motorcyclists should be exposed to exhaustive training before they acquire any driving or riding licences. At the moment, most of the drivers and riders do not hold any licences...yet they drive and ride! This is a dangerous canker. It is high time someone slammed the brakes on this heart-rending dilemma.