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,Tanzania ,Motor ‘speed governors’ fail to curb road accidents

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Motor ‘speed governors’ fail to curb road accidents

By Aloyce Menda of JUSTA-AFRICA

Fatal motor accidents are increasing in east African roads while the state authorities are probing hard for solutions to main causes, which are reckless driving and corruption in Traffic Police.

Motor accidents compete with malaria and HIV/ AIDS as major human killers in the region. Tanzania is the most affected than the neighbouring Kenya and Uganda due to the increasing car imports and improved roads.

Speed governor, a gadget that limits vehicle speeds has failed since the law amendments were passed on the Traffic Acts to impose the new technology as a compulsory engine component to all public transport vehicles. Kenya amended its Traffic Act in 1994 and Tanzania followed in1996. Uganda has yet to affect such a law but debates were hot in Kampala from mid 1990s due to an increasing number of road accidents.

Available official statistics shows that since 1997 motor accidents are increasing parallel with the number of casualties in Tanzania and Kenya. Most of dead victims were pedestrians, majority of them ignorant of traffic laws and driving. An average of 40 accidents occur daily and speed control for public transport vehicles to a maximum of 80 kilometres per hour was deemed as appropriate solution.

In Tanzania, the National Institute of Transport (NIT) estimates an average annual growth rate of 7.2% in road accidents since 1974. The property losses due to accidents are estimated at 20 billion Tanzanian shillings (approx. US$ 23 million) annually.

According to recent research findings, Dar es Salaam roads are the most risky in Tanzania. Almost one-third (1/3) of all road accidents occur in Dar es Salaam, the main commercial city and de-facto capital of Tanzania with three million inhabitants. In 1994, NIT studies revealed that the losses due to accidents are 20 times higher in Tanzania than in the United Kingdom.

“Our total accidents are 20 times higher than those of Sweden, a country with vehicles 20 times than ours,” says a report by NIT, the sole institute dedicated in transport training courses in eastern Africa. In 1996, NIT played a major role in convincing the Tanzanian legislatures to pass the Traffic Act Amendment in favor of speed limiters.

Only a few companies were authorized to fit the gadgets in vehicles for Traffic Police inspection. Vehicle owners were obliged to obtain a certificate from the authorized companies, to show to the inspectors that they have fitted genuine speed limiters. The Dar es Salaam based Equator Body Builders Limited is among the authorized companies, which made a big business profit from importation and fitting of the gadgets since March 1997 when the amended traffic law became effective.

Defending the technology, an automobile engineer from Equator Body Builders told the Press in 1997 that apart from speed control, the gadgets reduces unnecessarily excessive fuel consumption. This is added economic benefit to vehicle owners as running costs are reduced to 45% through fuel saving, he argued.

He refuted charges by some vehicle owners that the technology can damage engines. The gadget restricts the maximum engine speed according to calibrations and has no effect on engine torque (horsepower or kilowatt output), said the engineer.

Today, the public is counting nine years since the traffic law amendment and the subsequent entry of compulsory speed limiters, but road accidents are increasing and those who propagated for speed control technology are silent.

Emerging today are several opinions for alternative measures that were suppressed in mid 1990s in support of speed control. It has been establish in recent analysis and studies on road accidents that no technology can effectively work without inculcating into the minds of masses, the eminent dangers of violating traffic laws.

Since modern motor vehicles are made with high sped capabilities, and high speed is desired to shorten traveling time, then all sound minds are subject to a gross dilemma between choosing “safe” but time-consuming journeys and “dangerous” but short-time journeys.

This dilemma is boosted by the facts from studies done in developed countries, which revealed that too low speeds are dangerous as well. In Norway and the United States the studies revealed that speed controls are effective in curbing motor accidents. For instance most states of America enforced a speed limit of 55 miles per hour (88 kilometres per hour) between 1974 and 1987 during the energy crisis and gained positive results.

However, analysis on the results revealed that the achievement was boosted by effective traffic law enforcement throughout the states. Further analysis revealed that the more a driver deviate from the average speed of traffic (low or high), the greater the chance of being involved in an accident. A safe speed depends on the average speed of the traffic stream, hence too low or too high speeds could both be dangerous.

When statistics are employed in debating, the major cause for accidents differs from developing and developed countries. Most of road accidents in developing countries occur in major cities, while in developed countries motor accidents are generally a widespread episode.

Taking the official statistics in Tanzania as an example, 54% of road accident casualties are passengers, but pedestrian deaths account to 65% of all motor accident deaths in Dar es Salaam alone. That means people walking or cycling beside the city roads are at risky of accident and death than those traveling by motor vehicles.

According to a report by city authorities, road accidents in Dar es Salaam account to 35% of all road accidents and 20% of all deaths due to road accidents countrywide, though the city’s population is 10% of the entire Tanzanian population of 34.6 million.

Bicycles are the most economical but dangerous transport in Dar es Salaam. The low and mid income earners who form the bulk of Dar population that could be cyclists but lower level of safety marginalize cycling to the few daring ones. Cases of cyclists being knocked down are common, and the situation is worse during rain seasons, when motorists drive in road peripherals to avoid potholes. The law enforcement is slack as far as cyclists’ rights are concerned hence reckless motorists do not respect them as entitle road users.

Analysis on accidents revealed that pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists killed daily on the city roads are not necessarily knocked by high-speed vehicles. In many cases drivers under the influence of alcohol toxic knock them while at normal speeds of 40 to 60 kilometres per hour.

Further analysis on statistics proved that saloon cars top the list of fatal road accidents and not passenger vehicles. Large number of city accidents occurs during weekends and holidays, and the main cause is pedestrians and reckless drivers who drink alcoholic beverages.

Cars killed two prominent journalists, John Makwaia and Robert Rweyemamu while crossing Dar es Salaam roads in 1988 and 2005 respectively. They were all said to come from night pubs during weekdays. The killers vanished immediately and nobody could record the car numbers because the roads had no lights and the car lights were switched-off after the accidents.

Hit and run deaths are common in Dar es Salaam roads and due to lack of road lights, motorists are forced to drive with full lights and hence increasing the risks of such accidents. Human killing by rushing cars marches with killing of roaming pets and livestock.
In one fatal accident, a normal speed car trying to deviate a roaming goat lost control and knocked three pedestrians. One of them died in hospital while the other two are permanently crippled.

In April 1984, the late Prime Minister of Tanzania, Edward Moringe Sokoine was killed in a road accident along the Morogoro to Dar es Salaam highway. Th

Posted By: ALOYCE MENDA

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