Road Safety And You
It rained this morning, it wasn’t a very heavy downpour, neither was it a light shower! With an early appointment already set for the day, I sought the services of my raincoat and umbrella and headed to the road to catch a taxi. Braving the rain, what scared me was the speed at which cars were zooming past on the tarmac. Anybody with common sense knows that tarmac surfaces get slippery when wet. It’s a miracle that no car skidded off the road during the time I stood waiting for my ride.
Everyday in both mainstream and digital media news across Uganda, there are reports of lives lost due to accidents, tear-jerking posts about deceased loved ones show up every other day. In all this, we are quick to accord blames on the corrupt traffic police officers, vehicles in dangerous mechanical conditions, poor road design and maintenance, even the devil takes a fair share of the blame, if not the most. A few days or weeks the funeral, we turn around and ask the Boda Boda rider to go faster, speeding through traffic lights just because we have a deadline to beat. We belong and contribute to WhatsApp groups that alert drunk drivers about the location of impromptu roadblocks, and the aim is to get rid of such drivers on our roads. We shout and honk at drivers observing the speed limits, call them cowards because they drive like grandmas. We sing praises to street boy racers in Subaru and Toyota Altezzas, because of their “skills behind the wheels” ignoring the fact that they are putting other road users at risk.
At the end of the day, even when the traffic police and other stakeholders get their acts together, there won’t be any change unless You and I take matters in our own hands and use the roads responsibly. Where do we start?
Possessing and utilizing essential driving skills. Driving within the authorized speed limits. The speed limit is set at that particular speed for a reason. The experts who know more reason that at such a speed, should any emergency situation like a tyre burst or you hit a pothole, the car can still be brought to a controlled stop by the driver.
Do not tailgate (following the car ahead too closely) The rule of the thumb is to give a minimum of 3 second gap to the car ahead. In case of an unexpected event like sudden braking of the car ahead, you have enough time to choose a safe option and react. The space left is enough to bring your car to a halt or gently swerve and avoid the obstacle.
Staying off the phone and other forms of distraction. No phone call or text message is more important than your life. Even when you are using a hands-free kit, find a safe spot, park, then you can respond to your device.
During wet weather, slow down or park and wait for the rain to subside. In case of floods, if you can’t see the actual road because it’s covered by water, try an alternative route or else your vehicle risks being swept away with you in it.
For parents, guardians and anybody in charge of driving in the company of little children, put something that you constantly use right by their car seat especially if it is not in your daily routine to have kids in the car. Children tend to sleep off and when you make a stop, you might forget them in the car, this has dire consequences. The item you constantly use like your phone or wallet shall serve as a reminder so that you don’t forget.
Understanding the logic behind the highway code. Reading and understanding the road signs and learning their intended purpose.
Understanding the need for regular vehicle maintainace and actually going ahead to do it. Check your brakes, oil levels, water levels, lights, tyres etc. Religiously service your car and make regular and preemptive repairs.
Understanding and safe use of vehicle instruments like windscreen wipers, side mirrors, defroster, low and high beam lights, fog lights.
When on that Boda Boda, always wear a helmet (your fancy hairstyle looks better in you when you are alive, and not as a corpse )and demand the rider respects the highway code.
For pedestrians, take utmost care when crossing. It’s safer to walk in the direction opposite the on-coming traffic. Remove your earphones and stay off the phone when crossing the road. Wear brighter colored clothing in the dark to make you more visible.
Let’s play our accident preventive roles and then demand for other stakeholders to play theirs too.