EDITORIAL COMMENT: Solution to road carnage overdue

Dual HighwayTHE country woke up again on Wednesday to devastating news headlines of 17 people who perished in road traffic accidents along the Harare-Mutare and Gweru-Lower Gweru roads.Twelve people were killed on Tuesday when a commuter omnibus they were travelling in veered off the road and overturned in Gweru rural, while five passengers perished the following day when another commuter omnibus they were travelling in collided head-on with a haulage truck near Marondera.

It is saddening that innocent people continue to lose lives, leaving their families in anguish and in some cases condemned to abject poverty as bread winners are killed or seriously maimed in road traffic accidents.

The causes remain the same — unroadworthy vehicles, speeding, drunken driving, failing to negotiate bends, overtaking errors — the list is endless.

The human capital cost caused by these accidents is unbearable to the country and beloved families as invaluable skills are unnecessarily lost through otherwise over 99 percent of the accidents that can be avoided.

It’s time that all stakeholders in road safety play ball because the country cannot continue to endure this carnage any more.

Millions of dollars are lost as insurance firms replace damaged vehicles as well as procure spare parts, otherwise valuable foreign currency that could be invested in economic turnaround.

The rate at which people die in road accidents daily without hitting newspaper headlines, is shocking and this calls for a serious national inquiry why someone is failing to devise methods to put a stop to this madness even amid heavy police presence on the highways.

Government ministries and departments responsible for road safety should be taken to task.

People demand to see measures that correspond with huge volumes of vehicles in our somewhat dilapidated roads being taken to ensure the safety of users.

We demand that police officers on roadblocks should not consider lining their pockets by taking bribes from owners of unroadworthy vehicles and speeding drivers, but execute their duties diligently.

No defective vehicles should be allowed to pass through police checkpoints, speeding drivers should be penalised no matter what positions they hold in society and extreme cases should immediately be referred to court.

We need more roadblocks manned by Vehicle Inspection Department, traffic cops and Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe officials on our highways, this time not demanding fines from motorists, but educating people on the need to drive and stay alive.

Motorists should be taught at driving school, driver testing, defensive driving and employment level for those who operate public transport vehicles of the right culture of driving and sharing the road with others.

Some of our roads such as the Beitbridge-Harare and Harare-Chirundu have outlived their lifespan by about 40 years and definitely these roads have become death traps for motorists and their passengers.

It’s shocking, if not scandalous that people perish in traffic accidents because the driver was avoiding a pothole, veered off the road and overturned or collided head on with another vehicle.

Surely these kinds of accidents can be avoided.

The public demands accountability on how the money raised from the many tollgates that continue to be erected in our roads is being used if the state of the roads remains the same.

Since 2009, when the country adopted multiple currency systems, only Plumtree-Harare-Mutare has been rehabilitated and others such as Harare-Chirundu and Beitbridge-Harare are in a sorry state.

It’s shocking that instead of news of more roads being opened or rehabilitated, its scandalous stories of who stole or abused the road funds are always hitting headlines.

Surely someone in Government should stop this.

The only way we can tame the road jungle is for people to have the right culture and attitude on road use and respect for sanctity of human life — some of these approaches need moral persuasion than force.