Sunday, September 2, 2012

Road Accidents

Of Dar’s traffic jams and the risky ‘Boda boda’ rides

By Stella Barozi

(Motorcycle accidents rose from 647 in 2010 to 695 in 2011.File photo)

Hellen can count the number of times she has ‘risked’ her life by taking a Boda boda (motor cycle) ride.
Risked yes because those who have taken a motorcycle ride say it is very risky given the kind of motorcycle drivers that we have. Young, inexperienced, careless, you name it. They even say there is a special ward at the Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI) for cyclists.
Despite having vowed to never ever board a boda boda, knowing the risks, Hellen has gone a head and done so three times. She sees herself taking more rides in future. She has no choice given Dar es Salaam’s notorious traffic jams, especially during peak hours!
Apart from being cheap, motorcycles provide you with the solution to getting to your destination on time, especially when you are in a hurry and there is traffic jam. They easily negotiate their way through. You just don’t have to think of the risks when you choose to take a motor bike.
Today when Hellen hires one, the last time was last Saturday, she only thinks an accident would only happen if God has said so. And no one can stop this.
“First of all, I never thought I would ever board a Bajaj (tri-cycle) but I went ahead and did it one day and have been doing so ever since. In fact I don’t remember the last time I hired a taxi,” says Hellen. Bajajs too are less expensive. But when it comes to beating traffic jam, motorcycles are the best.
This is why Hellen is slowly becoming a convert, despite having dreaded them in the beginning.
“I had heard and seen people get motorcycle accidents. I know how reckless most drivers are and back then, I could never have risked my life. But do I have a choice? You know the congestion on Dar roads. You could stay on the road for over two hours,” she says.
The first time Hellen took a motorcycle was way back in 2010. She was supposed to attend a family meeting in Segerea and because there was heavy traffic jam as is normally the case on Saturdays, she had to take a Bajaj from Mwenge to Ubungo where she expected to board a dala dala to Segerea.  She took the Bajaj after having stayed at the bus stop for over thirty minutes. Daladalas were difficult to get and the few that stopped at the bus stop were already too full.
When she finally got to Ubungo, Hellen spent over an hour and a half at the bus stand and there was no sign she would get a bus to Segerea anytime soon. There was traffic jam and vehicles were not moving at all. The only way out was to take a motorcycle.
“I asked the driver if he had a helmet. He gave me one and off we went. Despite warning him to be careful, my heart was in my mouth through out the journey. I sighed with relief when I arrived at Segerea safely but vowed to never take a motor vehicle. And I never did the whole of last year until last month when necessity arose again. You know traffic jam,” Hellen says. She has taken the rides twice without a helmet.
The second time happened when Hellen needed to go to Kimara after work. Since it was already late when she left office and the fact that there was heavy traffic, a boda boda ride was the only way of getting there fast. Thankfully, she got to Kimara safely although she prayed to God to protect her through out the journey.
Not everyone is always lucky. Chrispin, a resident of Mabibo has been involved in motorcycle crashes twice and advises friends and relatives against taking Boda bodas.
“They are not safe at all. I have been lucky twice and have since sworn to never take a motorcycle. I would rather walk than take one. Today I hire taxis every time I’m in a hurry. Although they don’t help when there is traffic jam, but they are safer than Boda bodas and Bajaj’s,’ says the father of three.
Two months ago, he witnessed a woman with a child on her back getting a motorcycle accident at Ubungo traffic lights. The motorcycle was at a very high speed and unfortunately, the driver lost control.
“I didn’t want to see what would happen to the woman and her child after they fell on the road since there were vehicles behind the motorcycle. I later learnt that the vehicle behind avoided them,” says Chrispin.
Motorcycle drivers, most of them young boys are not careful on the road at all. They ride the motorcycles as if they are in a race.
“Some of us learn to drive motorcycles in the morning and believe to have qualified in the evening. Very few undergo proper training and most therefore are ignorant of the road rules,” says Mohammed, a motorcycle driver at Mwenge.
He says although the business has created employment to many young men, most are misusing the opportunity. This has resulted into many lives getting lost.
According to Legal and Human Rights Centre’s 2011 Tanzania Human Rights Report, road fatality in Tanzania is increasingly becoming a threat to life for thousands of innocent people. These accidents have become the leading cause of death for young people between the ages of five to 29.
“Currently, the number of people involved in road accidents in Tanzania is greater than the population growth… despite having road safety regulations and institutions, road accidents have continued to be on the rise,” reads the report in part.
Dar es Salaam Region is said to be the leading region in road accidents whereby 10,429 accidents occurred last year leading to 423 deaths and 2,698 casualties. Pwani Region led in deaths by road accidents where 504 people died and 2,715 got injured in 1,974 road accidents.
Traffic police reports show the number of people who died in road accidents rose from 3,582 in 2010 to 3,981 in 2011. Likewise, the trend of deaths by motorcycle accidents rose from 647 in 2010 to 695 in 2011.
Legal and Human Rights Centre’s analysis shows that an average of 20,000 people in Tanzania are disabled from road accidents annually. According to LHRC’s report, road accidents are mostly fuelled by human error such as misjudgement, excessive speed, overtaking errors, negligent pedestrians, passengers, cyclists and cart pushers. Others are alcohol and drugs consumption, reckless driving, overloading of passengers and goods, parking errors and drivers’ fatigue.
Most respondents in the LHRC’s survey cited negligence as the main cause of the accidents. Other factors mentioned include corruption, irresponsibility, poor management, driving while using mobile phones and drink driving, driving without having proper training, bending traffic regulations, poor vehicle conditions, old vehicles and lack of vehicle maintenance among others.
Other studies show that 76 per cent of road accidents are caused by human factors, 17 per cent by vehicle conditions and 7 per cent by external factors.
LHRC advises government to take concern of all the mentioned reasons to reduce road fatality in the country.
The law enforcement organs need to be serious on making sure road regulations are followed. They need to make sure drivers don’t drive while drunk, don’t use mobile phones while driving and that they respect Zebra crossings among many others.
“Most drivers ignore Zebra crossings. They don’t stop at Zebra crossings but instead expect pedestrians to stop so they (vehicles) can pass,” says a concerned pedestrian, Esther.
She thinks all these can be stopped if traffic policemen adhere to their work ethics.

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