Last week the members of Parliament came up with a proposal to expand the Mbarara-Kampala highway in order to curb down the high rates of accidents that have since this year claimed more than 50 lives and leaving over 200 casualities with serious injuries.
This proposal made me think that there are certain questions these policy makers do not ask themselves before coming to conclusions. For example what is the major cause of these accidents in Uganda??, is it quality of our roads, quality of our drivers or the policy environment??
Earlier this year, i managed to get myself a driving permit through a certain driving school in Mbarara i wouldn’t like to mention. I was requested to pay Ushs 300,000 and then asked to return after two weeks to get a temporary driving permit. The school which only has a rented office in town can attach you to some informal trainers in town if you are willing to learn for around one week. However if you are not willing to learn, your permit comes out directly. I was among such a group because i received my permit without undergoing traffic testing. Such a scenario(drop in an ocean) manifesta that there is a decrease in the quality of our drivers attributed to the failures of these driving schools whose aim is making money and have limited supervision from traffic authorities.
Secondly between 2012-2016 while still at university, i travelled numerous times on this road and rarely would you hear such scenerios of accidents along this road. Some people argue that the road is slippery while others argue that it is narrow. However its narrowness and smoothness have both existed before without causing such accidents.
To me i believe that the major determinat of accidents is the discipline of its drivers and the policy environment in which they operate from. Therefore before rushing to waste money expanding the road, there are certain steps that policy makers must address.
One, the quality of our driving schools must be checked. Surprisingly you will find such driving schools owned by senior traffic officers who have connections in the system. Standards must be set such as having well-trained instructors, equipments such as learning cars, class attendances must also be emphasised because very few drivers can for example interprete all road signs & trade licences must also not be issued out anyhowly.
Secondly, well set traffic policies must be set & implemented. This government has for long suffered from inconsistency in policy implementation, for example what happened to seat-belts, speed governors among others. The system has been killed by the rampant corruption and lack of monitoring and supervision.
Police only comes up with a short-run soluntions when accidents become rampant and then relax when the situation normalises. For example like two weeks ago, over 200 drivers were arrested along the Kampala-Mbarara highway and produced to court immediately and i believe this is the way to go if we are to build discpline among drivers.
The government must also ease the process of getting a driving permit in terms of monetary costs incured. In the last budget, the cost of acquiring a driving permit almost doubled and this is likely to discourage people from attending driving schools and acquiring driving permits.
The government must also increase on the fines such as those found driving recklessly such as driving while drunk, phone usage while driving, over loading and speeding. Once this is done, the culprits will learn the hard way and in the long-run discipline will be rebuilt.
The government should also discourage driving at night especially buses that carry passagers. This is because at night drivers are reckless since there is limited traffic supervision or else ensure that every bus is accompaigned by a traffic officer to monitor the driver within the bus.
Lastly the government must also recruit more traffic officers to increase on regular patrols. For example in my district, we have few traffic officers who are easily monitored by drivers to violate traffic rules & regulations.
More equipments such as patrol cars must be purchased to ease on their work and they must also be well-motivated to prevent them from accepting bribes from drivers.
In conclusion therefore i would like to advise MPs that rushing for a monetary soluntion is just for the shortrun and is an indicator of how poor planners and implementors we are..
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY!!