Road carnage: A tougher stance needed

FIFTY lives perished in a few seconds in yet another road carnage involving two buses in Rusape on Wednesday evening. And according to initial indications, it was due to human error. All those lives could have been saved if someone was observing road regulations and paying due attention to other traffic users.

Editorial

It makes sad reading that two of the deceased were children, whose lives were cruelly snatched from them before they had even realised their full potential.

What is infuriating are reports that the driver and conductor of the bus that caused the accident fled the scene.

They had no decency to stick around and help the injured or comfort those in pain. It only goes to show the calibre of drivers that are being employed to drive public service vehicles. Chances are they are inexperienced and quite young.

The bloodbath on Zimbabwean roads is like no other and what is clearly missing is a road safety culture and deterrent measures to halt the needless deaths.

The horrific pictures of the Rusape accident scene, with bodies strewn all over the road, is yet another wake-up call to the growing menace which has seemingly refused to go away.

With the festive season around the corner, many road users, in particular those who will be using public transport, are already dreading getting on the roads. What chance that you are the next statistic?

In 2017, nearly 2 000 people died in road traffic accidents, while another 10 400 were injured in over 40 000 crashes. These frightening figures are an indication of the attitude of most drivers who could not care less for the lives of the very passengers their livelihoods depend on.

According to a research paper by the Traffic Safety Council in Zimbabwe (TSCZ) released in April, most of the unlicensed drivers involved in the accidents were driving public service vehicles.

The paper also estimated that the loss of lives and limbs per year due to road traffic crashes is costing low income nations like Zimbabwe up to 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

With Zimbabwe’s GDP at $25,7 billion, then, per year the country loses about $770 million annually due to road carnage.
Government has a mandate to ensure that road rules are observed by all users, but corruption in State institutions — police and the Vehicle Inspection Department — and failure of the system to severely punish offenders means that unfit vehicles and unqualified drivers are let loose onto our roads, and we pay the price in lost lives.

The state of the roads is still an issue, particularly the death trap that is the Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway, which is now just a narrow strip littered with potholes and jagged edges.

All these issues need urgent solutions but for the families of those who died in the Rusape accident, it is rather too late for any interventions no matter how well meaning.

Any compensation to the families will not appease them, as loved ones and breadwinners have been lost, future leaders have gone and some children are now orphans. All thanks to recklessness.

Government must be tough on reckless public transport drivers urgently. We need tougher laws to halt the problem.