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» » Revisiting 2017’s road traffic disasters


TSCZ managing director Obia Chinyere

Memory Rasa

This year saw some of the most horrific road traffic accidents ever recorded in this country with a devastating effect on the national economy, the welfare of families and the wellbeing of survivors.
Road traffic accidents are expected to be the main cause of death globally by 2020 according to Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ).
This year has already seen a number of fatal road accidents being declared national disasters.
Over 2 000 lives have already been lost on Zimbabwean roads this year, with an average of five people dying and 38 injured every day due to road carnages.
A closer look at fatal accidents of 2017 reveal that human error was the main cause and more care on the part of drivers could have seen many if not all of the accidents being avoided.
In April 2017, a South Africa-bound Proliner bus was sideswiped by a haulage truck near Chaka Business Centre in Chirumhanzu, along the Harare-Masvingo highway, killing over 30 passengers and injuring more than 40. Most of those who died were burnt beyond recognition.
Prior to that, in March, there was another horror crash in Kwekwe which claimed 31 lives after a front tyre of a Pfochez bus burst, leading to a sideswipe with a Mercedes Benz Sprinter.
In June, a King Lion bus on its way to Lusaka, Zambia, killed 45 passengers and injured 30 in Nyamakate along the Harare Chirundu highway. The driver, who was speeding, lost control of the bus, causing it to slam onto a tree. It was reported that the bus had 76 passengers on board instead of 69.
Most saddening of all these accidents, perhaps, is the fact that many breadwinners were killed while on their way to fend for their families outside the country.
Both the accidents involving the cross-border busses could have been avoided firstly if the drivers were more careful and secondly, if the roads were in a better shape. Vehicles are sideswiping each other because the roads are narrow, there is no doubt about that, but also because drivers enjoy speeding.
In June, a commuter omnibus rammed a stationery haulage truck near Dema police station in Seke killing 10 people. It was on its way from Hwedza to Harare.
That was followed by another deadly accident when 11 people were burnt beyond recognition after two vehicles, a Nissan Caravan with 21 passengers and a Honda CRV, collided and burst into flames along Centenary - Mvurwi road.  All four people in the CRV died on the spot while seven others travelling in the Caravan perished.
On August 24, a commuter omnibus driver in Murewa tried to dodge a police traffic checkpoint and the vehicle encroached into the right lane where it collided head-on with another omnibus travelling to Motoko. Ten people died on the spot and several more were injured.
On August 25, another horror crash involving a haulage truck in Kamativi, Matebeleland North province killed 12 people. The truck was carrying 130 people, mainly apostolic church congregants from Binga who were going to a conference in Dete. It was reported that the truck developed faulty brakes, veered off the road before plunging into a valley where the 12 died while many others escaped with injuries.
On November 2, a Polokwane-bound kombi killed 12 Zimbabweans after colliding with a truck. The kombi, which caught fire near Botlokwa village along the N1, was travelling from Musina when it hit a stray donkey.
On December 02, 21 people died at Jamila in Tsholotsho Mtebeleland North province, after a Ministry of Health and Child Care UD truck which was carrying 50 anti-malaria campaigners from Nkayi and Lupane skidded off the road and crushed
It was reported that the driver of the truck failed to negotiate a sharp curve with other reports saying the driver had been drinking prior to that.
With due care on the part of the driver and officials from the Health ministry, the accident could have been avoided.
These deadly crushes are clearly a result of preventable factors: human error, disrespect for road rules and mechanical faults; all of which are avoidable.
Although night driving, bad roads, stray animals, decrepit and poorly-maintained vehicles have been cited as some of the major causes of the numerous casualties on the roads, TSCZ and the police department say at least 94 percent of road traffic accidents are a result of human error.
These mistakes include failure to give way, overtaking and reverse errors, use of cell phones while driving as well as speeding. Misjudgement, following other vehicles too closely, fatigue and negligent pedestrians or cyclists are also some of the main cause of road carnage.
According to the World Health Organisations (WHO), 1.3 million people are killed on the world's roads annually and over 50 million are injured. About 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries.
WHO however states that road safety campaigns in conjunction with legislation can help to influence behavioural change but when used in isolation, education, information and publicity generally do not deliver tangible and sustainable reductions in deaths and serious injuries.
The director of transport management in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Allowance Sango says the accelerated rate of road accidents claiming lives in the public transport sector is now alarming.
He also said the creation of a national road accident fund which is awaiting government approval
TSCZ managing director Obia Chinyere said motorists should be extra careful and ensure that their vehicles are regularly serviced to avoid accidents especially as the country approaches the festive and rainy seasons.
A concerned cross boarder truck driver, Admire Maungani thinks regular training and evaluation of drivers can help to reduce accidents. He says the government should fast track the development of the rail system to reduce pressure on the roads.
"On numerous occasions, passengers cheer drivers on when they speed, not realising it is their lives that are at stake. Passengers also play a role in these road carnages; they need to know when their lives are in danger and how to stop drivers," Maungani said.
In March, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), the number of accidents rose by 75 percent despite the increased number of police roadblocks.
In its 2017 first quarter report, ZimStat said road traffic accidents increased nearly four times from 45 701 in 2015 to 159 490 in 2016.local

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