The Sunday Mail
RAINS seem to have a way of bringing the worst out of drivers, particularly in Harare.
Even the slightest of showers have the potential to cause massive traffic snarl-ups.
The moment it starts raining, drivers throw traffic regulations out of the window; they flagrantly disregard road rules.
The situation gets worse when police officers abandon their stations to seek shelter from the showers.
Accidents become common during the rain-induced melee.
“In Harare’s central business district alone, at least three accidents are recorded per hour during the rains,” police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told The Sunday Mail Society.
He reckons the figure could be higher since some of the cases go unreported.
But Government is reportedly working on measures to ensure those who violate traffic regulations, even during the rains, are brought to book.
“Generally, as the rainy season begins, we are making sure that the necessary tools of operation are in place for our members to discharge their duties despite the weather conditions. On harnessing new technologies, Government is working on something which I would not want to pre-empt but will come soon,” revealed Asst Comm Nyathi.
At a post-Cabinet briefing in May this year, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa disclosed that the authorities would soon roll out an integrated traffic management system.
“Government is introducing a smart traffic management system in all cities across the country, with cameras set to be installed on all controlled intersections and strategic points to gather information and monitor traffic flow,” she said.
The system is expected to create a platform for real-time electronic monitoring of roads, receipting, reconciliation of fines, docket management and analysis of traffic information and statistics across the whole country.
Asst Comm Nyathi said going forward, sanity can only be restored if motorists abide by traffic regulations.
The most common traffic offences during the rains include breezing through red traffic lights, creating illegal lanes, driving against the flow of traffic, mounting kerbs or overtaking in prohibited zones.
In some cases, the rains also affect visibility, which is made worse when the vehicle is not in good working order.
“As the rainy season begins, we also encourage motorists not to use vehicles with dysfunctional wipers. These, too, need to be repaired or replaced for obvious reasons.
“We urge motorists to plan their routes to avoid unnecessary congestion in certain areas by using alternative roads, especially during peak hours,” added Asst Comm Nyathi.
African Road Safety Observatory’s Roads4Life champion Tatenda Chinoda believes technology will go a long way in instilling discipline in motorists.
“The world is moving towards a technological era. We cannot let errant and reckless motorists wreak havoc on our roads. New technologies can help deal with this menace. Developed nations are already using such technology, where law enforcement agents monitor system updates on computers and act according to the information gathered,” said Mr Chinoda.
“Crime detection and enforcement will be enhanced for our law enforcement agents, while revenue collection will also be increased through optimised systems.”
The smart traffic management system will integrate electronic platforms at the Central Vehicle Registry, Zimbabwe National Road Administration, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Interpol and other relevant Government departments.
Mr Chinoda dismissed the notion that congestion in Harare is due to high traffic volumes.
“A mere observation of traffic flow shows that the jams do not extend more than a kilometre. It only happens at certain intersections due to a high level of selfishness by some drivers, and that needs to be corrected by all stakeholders,” he said.
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said there was need to expeditiously put in place the integrated traffic management system so that those who commit traffic offences are brought to book.
“Such systems have proved to be effective in countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States,” he said.
Flash floods have also been identified as another cause of congestion when it rains, as drivers struggle to navigate the roads.
When there is poor drainage, water flows on the streets and in some instances, vehicles stall after water gets into the combustion chambers.
This usually causes either congestion or accidents, or both.
Harare City Council spokesperson Innocent Ruwende urged the public, particularly motorists and vendors, to be responsible.
“Littering is an individual decision. Some people who are even close to a bin decide to throw their litter in the drainage system. There should be heavy enforcement and littering control in the city.
“At the moment, on most street corners in town, we have vendors roasting mealies and the residue is thrown all over. The litter eventually finds its way into our drainage system,” Mr Ruwende noted.
“The city has procured a new excavator that will be dedicated to major drain clearing. Some of the drains have not been cleared in the past eight or so years. The city is also targeting to procure three tractor-loader backhoes, one front-end loader and three tractor-trailer combinations before the end of this year to assist in loading and transportation of spoil from drains, as this is one of our major challenges at the moment.”
Mr Bernard Mupeti of Hatfield was last week left counting his losses after his vehicle collided with a car that had encroached onto his lane. The incident happened at the intersection of Julius Nyerere Avenue and Robert Mugabe Road.
“I could have died. Thank God I am alive,” he said.
Another victim, Mrs Tutsirai Nyengeni, is currently nursing her amputated leg after she was involved in a road accident that occurred during the rains.
“I was driving towards Chitungwiza, and as I approached the Seke Road and Cripps Road intersection, there was congestion. When I got into the intersection, having the right of way, another motorist hit my car from the passenger’s side,” she narrated.
Mrs Nyengeni does not recall what happened afterwards as she only woke up in hospital. Her car was a write-off.
Mrs Rosemary Mutasa (54) is not happy with the Harare traffic situation.
“We grew up knowing that traffic regulations must be followed religiously, but when you do so during the rains, you will be insulted. We are subjected to obscenities by these youthful drivers,” she said.
“Their theatrics on the roads are dangerous not only to motorists but pedestrians as well. The authorities need to find a way to maintain their presence on the roads, even when it rains.”
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