Hardly a month elapses without hearing the news about traffic accidents on our roads despite many campaigns to sensitize the general public on road safety. It is like road users remember the importance of driving safely when a tragic accident occurs and take away our loved ones. Benjamin Franklin once said, I quote “ Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The majority of road accidents that have been recorded on East African roads are caused by reckless driving. My question is: “how can we involve the public to use roads responsibly?”
The police might hold a road safety week every year and do everything it can to keep the security of road users but without the commitment of the latter the situation won’t improve for the better. The Second UN Global Safety Week was recently held on 6-12 May 2013 and it was dedicated to pedestrian’s safety. The week was requested by the UN General Assembly and was supposed to draw the urgent need to better protect pedestrians worldwide and contribute to achieving the goal of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 to save 5 million lives, read a statement on World Health Organization.
The UN Global Safety Week was held in most East African countries where it was spearheaded by the respective national police. Activities such as raising awareness to improve road security and advising road users to fine tune their road culture in the interest of their safety and that of the others were organized. This is not the first time that these activities are organized but road safety remains critical. According to police statistics, a total of 277 traffic accidents were registered across the country in the first three months this year, with 72 percent of them in the City of Kigali. Recent traffic reports indicate there is an increase in road accidents across the country according to the Rwanda National Police website.
I have nothing against Safety Week, my concern is its impact to the public on how to drive responsibly. The fact we have at hands is that our roads claims human resources we need in our national development. The Global status report on road safety 2013 indicates that worldwide the total number of road traffic deaths remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million per year. According to Rwanda National Police, most road accidents are caused by the non respect of basic traffic regulations by drivers which include; bad maneuvering of motorcyclists, careless driving, over speeding, and violation of road signage.
There is always something that you remember when you visit a country, for me Norwegians drivers have to be commended when it comes to the respect of road signs. The zebra crossings are highly respected in that country and as a pedestrian you feel you are valuable. Unfortunately in many others countries, you wonder if our drivers have gone through driving schools before they are allowed to drive on our roads. Try to cross the road on zebra crossings in Kigali and if you are not careful you might be hit by cars speeding. At the end of the day you wonder the use of those road signs when they are not even respected by those who suppose to respect them.
No matter how many Safety Week are organized each year, without the cooperation of road users especially drivers, our roads are still claiming innocent lives. Public participation to involve population into process of improving road safety is a must if we are to reduce the number of accidents on our roads. Without the involvement of the general public in this issue, we cannot expect the Road Safety Week to change the mindset of the public in one week. The police have to find ways to involve drivers and other road users to improve road safety. When people are involved into something, that is when they learn how to take care of the issue at hand.