A fallen road sign
Accidents across the world have been related to various factors including bad roads, bad weather and human error but the impact of poor road signage has largely been ignored as one of the major causes of road carnage on Zimbabwe’s roads.
Human error, according to reports by leading road safety advocacy organization, Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), is the biggest cause of road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe.
The failure by relevant authorities to provide and maintain traffic signs in order to guide road users through the numerous accident black spots and hazardous places on the highways is now being seen as one of the major causes of road accidents across the country.
In Zimbabwe’s towns and cities, local authorities are responsible for road signage and road maintenance while the Ministry of Transport maintains national roads.
These authorities are doing very little, if anything to maintain roads and road signage to optimum standards as evidenced by derelict road signs on both highways and smaller, council-owned roads.
TSCZ spokesperson Tatenda Chinoda said the roads should communicate with the drivers which is the international standard.
“Road signs will enable our roads talk. International best practices speaks about ‘talking’ roads; meaning roads are speaking to the driver and warning them and advising them where necessary,” said Chinoda.
He, however, warned that drivers themselves needed to be cautious even where there was no road sign that could save anybody from gross negligent driving.
“Lack of these signs does not necessarily translate to serious consequences of road carnage as the behavior of the drivers themselves determines most of what becomes of them, their vehicles, fellow motorists and their vehicles as well as pedestrians. Today, we see drivers are flagrantly ignoring red traffic lights and not stopping at stop signs. All the best road sign signals are in the mind of the drivers. This is, however, not to say local authorities have no obligation to ensure that the roads they construct are talking roads,” said Chinoda.
Some traffic signs are now old, vandalized and faded while some are located at a short distance from the hazard, giving no sufficient time for the user to take action.
These days’ road users have to bank their safety on their familiarity with the roads not on the signage or demarcations usually erected on the side of the roads or on the tarred surface.
Sharing his sentiments, an illegal pirate driver who plies the Harare-Masvingo highway route said he was being extra cautious when driving since the road signs are now faded and some of them are no longer there.
“Our Harare-Masvingo road is now in an extremely bad state and road signs haven’t been spared the vandalism, dilapidation and utter neglect. During the night, it’s very hard for me to drive without the assistance of these road signs which are supposed to warn me of a hazard as I drive through,” said the driver.
Inadequate budgetary allocations, corruption and nepotism have also contributed to the lack of road signs since tenders to maintain and construct roads are allegedly given to non-deserving companies on political grounds.
If road signs are maintained, the rate of accidents can drop significantly as road users would be well-informed of hazardous areas.