Once again road accidents have become a common occurrence on our roads and motorways with its accompanying fatalities and casualties. We have lost our parents, brothers, sisters and friends. It is still reported that Somaliland’s road accident record is strangely high among developing countries. This year alone, Somaliland recorded 2,875 motor accidents. According to the Police Traffic Unit during this period, there were 150 fatalities and 1, 440injury cases.
For those who doubt the statistics, the reality is that Somalilanders are now seeing the havoc that road indiscipline has been causing more than they ever thought, as mangled vehicles and bodies continue to be dangled before them in the media. Highways and motorways created to enhance mobility and traveling have now become grave yards in this country. Day by day people are dying on the roads that could have been prevented.
Last week a major accident claimed the lives of three police officers and two civilians when a vehicle transporting police officers collided with another vehicle in Halaya village, near Hargeisa. The fatalities are uncountable and those who are still on the hospital bed cannot be said to have a wholesome medical report on them.
Do we have to resign ourselves to the fact that road accident is a matter of fate and that there is nothing we can do about this? I refuse to believe that accidents on our roads are predestined.
There is something fundamentally wrong in this country and until we get it right or fix it road accident will continue to take toll on people’s life and result in financial burden to the government.
Now in order to reduce the fatalities on the roads it is important to know the causes of accidents on the roads.
The theories might be many but the underlying factor is that most of the accidents on the roads are as a result of human flaws which I have always been saying that they are all preventable.
The causes of accidents on the road are indiscipline on the part of some drivers using the road, blatant disregard to road traffic laws, over-speeding, , fatigue driving and poor nature of the roads.
The driving standard of many drivers has also been recognised to be poor, leading to a severe impact on the traffic accident problem. A general low educational level of the driver population in combination with low economy and lack of widespread formalised driver education have been contributing factors to the problem.
It is, however, common knowledge that some people even get their licences through dubious means, a situation that has led to wrong people acquiring licences for which they are not qualified to hold.
Some drivers when they suffer breakdown on the road refuses to put the right road sign to warn oncoming vehicles. On the Hargeisa-Berbera and Berbera -Buroa highways, there are enough incidents of this sort at any point in time to prove this point. The police see this and do nothing about it.
We can also blame the rising accidents on the nature of the roads. In some places pot holes have graduated into gullies or trenches and this poses serious threat to motorists.
When we talk about this we ask of what the Ministry of Public utilities and its allied agencies like the Somaliland Road Authority are doing to maintain the roads in the country. People’s whose work is to repair and maintain roads in the country are not doing their work but at the end of the month collect their salaries.
Can’t the appropriate authorities be charged for derision of duties with regards to the repair and maintenance of the road? In an era where motorist are paying more for the road fund, we should use the money to protect the motorist.
The police traffic unit reports that over-speeding is one of the greatest causes of road accidents in the country. Again and again, some recalcitrant drivers ignore the speed limits and over-speed and this can result in an accident.
It might be expensive but I think it would be appropriate if part of the road fund be used to procure speed cameras which could be mounted on some selected road spots. This will reduce the police man hours on the road. Monitoring of these speed cameras can be given a private company to run. Properly prosecuting violators of speed limit in a competent law court would help bring sanity on the highway.
In Europe and North America, speed cameras are all over the road and any driver who ignores the speed limit can always be located and penalized. In Somaliland because drivers who over speed or jump the traffic light cannot be identified easily, people do this with impunity.
Poor maintenance of vehicles can also be said to contribute to accidents.
Most cars in the country are not road worthy but yet they have road worthy sticker conspicuously glued to their windscreen. Something is wrong in the country which we must fix it.
In Europe and USA, the police can fine a driver for riding on bad or worn out tyres. It appears in Somaliland there is a leeway for drivers to drive on worn tyres. This gives rise to the issue of imported used or secondhand tyres. The question is; what causes a European or American user to throw away his tyres? Yet we rush to import them to use on our cars.
The Ministry of Public utilities and Somaliland Road Authority should be running regular training to upgrade the skills of drivers especially those driving large haul commercial passenger vehicles. The police should be given the right to fine those violate traffic law instantly.
Other issues that need to be considered in order to curb road accidents are sustained public awareness, information dissemination, public campaigns and enforcement of the existing laws.