The Sunday Mail
IN the six years to December 2018, more than 12 000 people had been killed in about 280 000 road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe, official statistics show.
Over that period nearly 100 000 people were injured on our roads, with 2018 a particularly grim year, accounting for nearly 60 000 traffic accidents.
The 2017 Nyamakate bus disaster involving a King Lion bus which claimed 43 lives, was a particularly lowlight in the country’s recent road history and is still fresh in the minds of many.
Most accidents on Zimbabwean roads have been attributed to human error, mainly failure to observe speed limits, driving under the influence of intoxicating substances, non-compliance or absence of safety provisions and distractions to drivers due to the use of mobile phones.
The death of socialite Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure recently in what investigators suspect was a high-speed crash has brought into sharp focus debate around road safety in Zimbabwe.
Only days following the Ginimbi incident, four more people perished needlessly following a head-on collision between two speeding vehicles in Kariba, adding further to the national toll.
History has taught us that as we enter the festive season holidays, road accidents will almost inevitably escalate.
In diagnosing the problem on our roads, experts have concluded that among the many problems blighting our roads include the prevalence of incompetent drivers mainly in public services vehicles.
Some unscrupulous individuals are illegally buying International Drivers’ Licences from South Africa, which they subsequently convert into genuine driver’s licences here at home, it has been alleged.
There is a prevalence of the use of un-roadworthy vehicles with serious defects.
We have a problem with corruption on our roads whereby drivers exchange bribes with corrupt traffic police in exchange for a free pass.
The Vehicle Inspection Department is ill-equipped to thoroughly inspect all vehicles while corrupt inspectors are making a killing by accepting bribes.
More importantly, our road infrastructure is largely in a poor state, a situation that is hospitable to road carnage.
Experts agree that most of these problems can be addressed by a virulent regulatory mechanism that imposes harsh sanctions on those on the wrong side of the law. This is where Parliament should come in.
Parliament has sadly been too silent and inactive in acting on this menace on our roads, signalling apparent complicity.
Last year, legislators from across the political divide were plunged into mourning following the death of former Glen South representative Vimbai Tsvangirai-Java in a horrific head-on collision just outside Kwekwe.
Parliamentarians delivered colourful eulogies in the House on the motion on condolence messages for the late Tsvangirai Java.
It was, however, Mutasa Central representative Trevor Saruwaka’s contribution that was most pointed.
“All this shows that the loss of lives through road accidents has become a norm,” said Mr Saruwaka.
“I would like to implore Parliament to craft laws which will regulate road construction and that we have dual carriageways along the nation’s highways so that head-on collisions are avoided because most tragic accidents are a result of head-on collisions since cars will be coming from different directions.
“If we construct dual carriageways — statistics show that we will eliminate 85 percent of road accidents.
“Research has shown that most accidents that are not head-on collisions do not have the same impact as head-on collisions.”
Several other MPs have been involved in road accidents since then.
In May, Amos Chibaya (MDC) was involved in a head-on collision near Zvishavane, while Marondera Central representative Caston Matewu sustained serious injuries after the vehicle he was travelling in veered off the road and struck a tree.
This illustrates that Parliamentarians themselves are equally affected by the road carnage menace, which is more reason why they should be taking the lead in addressing this problem head-on.
One way to start is modernising the Road Traffic Act to set it in line with international trends.
The law must impose heavy penalties on drunk driving including revocation of driver’s licences for serial violators of road regulations.
In other jurisdictions, the law provides that traffic offenders accumulate demerit points over a period of time that will eventually result in their drivers’ licences being revoked.
The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe has previously proposed that speed limits on certain roads are raised because some accidents are being caused by slow drivers.
The law should provide that all drivers undergo eye tests periodically while drivers with poor eyesight must be required to use sight aids.
Technology, including speed cameras and high-tech traffic management systems, must be deployed to all accident hotspots and eventually on all roads.
Parliamentarians should consider a law to seriously punish both parties involved in exchange of bribes on our roads and at vehicle inspection and driving tests.
More importantly, Treasury should be compelled to set aside a fixed percentage of its National Budget for road rehabilitation, maintenance, widening and construction.
Parliament should reject appropriating National Budgets that do not address these serious deficiencies because good roads are critical ingredients for road safety. More importantly, the proposed setting up of the Road Accident Compensation Fund to assist victims an