effort.jpgBy Effort Magoso

 

The recent spate of road accidents in the country has drawn me to write another sorrow laden piece. With a week not passing these days without our roads claiming lives, it is inevitable that I pour my heart again to lament what looks like a situation fast getting out of hand.

 

 

The lyrics from a song by various Zimbabwean artists after the Nyanga Bus Disaster which killed 91 school children and teachers in 1991 reverberates in me harshly, “mabus driver musatambe nemweya yevanhu …..kumhanya hakusi kusvika,”  as accidents continue to occur at a disturbing frequency.

 

It is of great concern when our roads become death traps, considering we all use them everyday, as pedestrians, passengers or as drivers.

 

I can not stomach the fear that you and I may be the next victims.

 

This fear is not unwarranted, especially in a country where fatal accidents are reported every week, worse off in a continent where road accidents are the third biggest killer after HIV/AIDS and malaria.

 

Although countries like India record larger road deaths, with a toll of at least 14 deaths per hour in 2008 as reported by the country’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), our own rates are by no means acceptable, considering that Zimbabwe is only the size of India’s capital New Delhi in terms of population. 

 

But why are we losing breadwinners, young people with a lot of potential while a lot others are getting maimed on our roads?

 

Is it a case of dangerous drivers or treacherous roads?
 
It would be easy to lay the blame at the feet of individual reckless drivers, as anecdotal evidence would certainly support this. Many stories of terrifying journeys involving a driver that is either drunk, on drugs or just reckless have been told.

 

In a recent accident in Epworth, the driver is alleged to have run away after being involved in an accident. Only God knows why the driver fled the scene of the accident if he was not the one at fault.

 

For their part, drivers of public service vehicles blame impatient passengers and the pressure to reach targets set for them by their masters.

 

Bad roads, alcohol, fatigue, human error, aged vehicles, speeding and lax regulations are all also considered major contributing factors to the country’s road fatality and accident numbers.

 

In a recent poll by ZBC Online, 79.2% of the participants believe the major cause of road accidents in Zimbabwe is the bad state of our roads, while 12.5% blame commuter omnibus drivers. Only 8.3% blame truck drivers.

 

But we must never forget that these accidents come at a cost, and the price cannot be only measured in human terms.

 

Worldwide, road accidents also come at significant financial costs to both society and individuals. As such road traffic accidents must also be quantified in economic terms. Estimates vary widely but in general are said to amount to around 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 

In 1997, South Africa estimated that road traffic accidents cost R13bn, or 1% of GDP and Kenya had the figure at 5%.

 

Despite all the ambiguities of cost estimates, one fact is indisputable – road accidents are costing the countries huge sums each year.

 

Scarce medical and technical resources are used up at the crash site and in hospitals.

 

So apart from the humanitarian aspect of reducing road deaths and injuries in the country, a strong case can be made for reducing road accident deaths on economic grounds alone, as they consume massive financial resources that the country can ill afford to lose.

 

As such, authorities ought to be concerned about the growth in the number of people killed and seriously injured on their roads.

 

Overseeing a well maintained, clearly sign-posted road network and ensuring that drivers and vehicles are properly licensed could be a good starting point.

 

Until the authorities and the drivers prioritise the need to curb road carnage, stories of traffic accidents will continue to fill media pages and sadly, the victims will be no one but us.

 

As we approach the Heroes Day holiday, the lyrics “Kumhanya hakusi kusvika….” from that old song must resonate in everyone’s mind and maybe we can save our lives from this unremorseful death trap.

 

Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.