The police have disclosed that Uganda witnesses the tragic loss of two children every single day due to escalating road crash incidents. This grim statistic, unveiled by Mr. Micheal Kananura, the spokesperson for the Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety, during a recent policy dialogue in Kampala, lays bare a distressing reality.
Kananura pointed the finger of blame at the pervasive ignorance of road safety regulations and the rampant disregard for these rules by motorists, passengers, and pedestrians alike. He minced no words in condemning the perilous practice of overloading boda bodas with three to five schoolchildren, labeling it as a highly risky endeavor that urgently requires reconsideration.
According to the 2022 Police Annual Crime Report, a heart-wrenching total of 650 children, comprising 395 boys and 255 girls, below the age of 18 succumbed to road crashes in our nation. The same year witnessed a staggering 20,394 road accidents, snuffing out the lives of 3,901 individuals.
Mr. Sam Bambanza, the executive director of Hope for Victims of Traffic Accidents (HOVITA), passionately implored the government to contemplate reducing speed limits in school zones as a critical step towards establishing safer environments for our schools and stemming the tide of these tragic losses. Bambanza’s words resonated with urgency as he warned, “If we don’t take action now, we risk losing an entire generation.”
Citing numerous studies that underscore the efficacy of lowering speed limits from 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph) to 30 kilometers per hour (18 mph) in school zones, Bambanza firmly advocated for this reduction. He stressed that the current 50 kilometers per hour speed limit should be revisited and lowered to 30 kilometers per hour to curtail injuries and fatalities.
The leading causes behind these heart-wrenching road crashes, as per Bambanza, include reckless speeding, disregard for traffic signs, and a shocking lack of adherence to designated safety zones. He emphasized the crucial nature of school zones, highlighting them as areas surrounding schools where children and young pedestrians are highly likely to be present.
Responding to the proposal, Mr. Winstone Katushabe, the commissioner for Road Safety and Transport Regulations at the Ministry of Works and Transport, emphasized the necessity of instilling discipline among road users. Katushabe made it abundantly clear that many of the indisciplined road users are our very own citizens. Even if speed limits are reduced to 30 kilometers per hour, he cautioned, achieving safety goals would remain elusive without a fundamental shift in behavior.
Ms. Susan Tumuhairwe from Safe Way Right Way Uganda, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting road safety, stressed the need to extend road safety training to parents and caregivers. She revealed their efforts, including the training of over 28,000 students and the establishment of 20 road safety clubs in the Albertine region, but asserted that involving parents and caregivers is essential to create a safer road environment for our children.