Road Accidents In Zimbabwe

Road accidents in Zimbabwe are a major problem that we need to address as a nation. This is not an article to discuss the obvious state of the roads but rather to focus on other factors that contribute to road carnage and to see what each one of us in our capacity as citizens can do to ensure the safety of not just ourselves but other road users too. Before you rush to comment that the roads are the major problem (no one disputes that btw) ask yourself this… What do you have control over, right now and each time you use the road, that could save a life? What precautions can you take?

Say you have a neighbor that has a vicious untrained dog… and your neighbor constantly leaves the gate open despite your countless appeals for the gate to be closed to protect you and others from the vicious dog. Assume the gate is broken and for whatever reason, your neighbor can’t or will not fix the gate. Surely, at some point, the issue is not entirely about your neighbor’s ability or inability to fix the gate because it’s out of your control as a friendly neighbor. You still have elements in your control and some of the options are 1) you could fix your neighbor’s gate at your own cost 2) you could report your neighbor to the authorities 3) you could change your route to one that does not involve walking past your neighbor’s house. The point here is that sometimes, while you work on a permanent fix to a flawed setup, you must use elements you have control over to ensure progress until a time when you can enforce a permanent fix. Surely this must be one of our natural ‘self-preservation instincts as human beings. After the rest of this article, you will see how this is relevant to this issue on road accidents in Zimbabwe.

According to a research study done by the Traffic Safety Council for Zimbabwe (TSCZ) and other international traffic authorities in their respective countries, it appears the top cause for road accidents is human error mostly attributed to distracted driving. This is not unique to illegal or outlawed activities that could distract a driver, such as cellphone use and drunk driving, but also includes simple things that take your attention from the road such as error in judgement, fatigue, blatant disregard for road rules, operating the radio to change the song or to go live on Facebook, a trend that is growing at an exponential rate due to Facebook’s popularity! Sadly we can all see how this seemingly cool live streaming trend will soon play it’s role in our history books by taking many lives as more and more drivers become distracted while focusing on their live feeds.

Just like the majority of other African nations, Zimbabweans love their music and gadgets so the findings are not surprising; just supa car sounds and protection findacompanyobserve your commute for one day and you will be amazed at the number of drivers that are distracted by radios and cell phones while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle… This carelessness, probably attributed to much ignorance, is killing innocent people on our roads across the country. According to the research more accidents are caused by sending a quick Whatsapp, “BRT (Be right there) or Come out” A short 10 letter message… Or a quick glance to check who’s calling so you can tell them “Please call me back in 10 minutes, I’m driving right now”, than by people who drink and drive or by over confident drivers who thinks it’s their father’s road so they can make their own rules as they go! That second or two seconds may be all it takes to take your life and lives of other road users. This is a big shock!

Here are some real life stories that will chill you and hopefully make you more responsible drivers: A 53 year old woman killed one and severely injured another pensioner. She crashed into them as they were parked on the side of the road while she tried to send her friend a birthday message on Facebook. A 22 year old graduate in Criminology was moving in with her partner in preparation to start a new job with the police force when she drove into the path of oncoming traffic while sending a text and died from the head-on collision.

No, message or phone call or video is worth risking your life. Say ‘No to cellphone use on the roads’!

In this day and age there are technologies that can help reduce the level of distraction for drivers… for example, there are wireless and Bluetooth technologies that mean less driver involvement in operating the stereo or cellphone. Of course one of the limiting factors is the cost of acquiring these gadgets in Zimbabwe. Their often exorbitant prices put them out of reach for many drivers and companies willing to invest in these life saving technologies. Our team visited a company located at the corner of seventh and livingstone ‘Supa Car Sounds & Protection‘ to chat to them about the availability of stereos with Bluetooth technologies and other car security and safety accessories and we were pleasantly impressed with the professionalism, knowledge and affordability of some of their stock such as the Pioneer DEH-X4850BT. Their 24 hour emergency call service was also a unique feature we did not come across with other service providers in this industry that we reviewed.

I also wanted to review how readily available some of these stats, from the TSCZ are and how accessible the information is to the public. The results are shocking and in my opinion, until this information is readily available, ignorance on the roads will continue on the rise and no matter how many innocent people die or laws passed we will never gain control of the growing numbers in road carnage across the country.

Throughout my research for this article I tried to use the Traffic Safety of Zimbabwe website but was sadly surprised at the lack of and outdated information available on their website. The site looks like it has not been updated since 2014!!! The majority of the links are broken, leading to 404 error pages. The statistics page has only two posts… one from 2009-06-01 and another from 2013-02-13. The layout of the site is really quite bad and not user friendly as it is impossible to select some of the menu items that are placed on top of other menu items rendering them useless. The last report was from 2013 and clicking on that link takes you to an error page: Not Found – The requested URL /documents/annual_report_2013.pdf was not found on this server.
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The downloads page has two outdated posts. My hope is that the Traffic Safety Council for Zimbabwe will engage other organizations like this magazine to help them more effectively communicate important stats and information that will inform and educate our road users so that we can all play a better and bigger role in reducing the road carnage we are currently experiencing in Zimbabwe. I called the marketing department several times and was given gmail accounts to send emails to but all the emails bounced back and then eventually I got through to the gentleman that promised to send me the research paper if I sent him an email requesting the research paper and stating what I needed it for but of course his “official traffic safety email” also bounced back and I recalled an earlier conversation with one of the ladies that advised their emails were not working.road accidents traffic safety reports zimbabwe zimshoppingmalls

In my opinion more is expected from the Traffic Safety Council if they are to play a truly progressively effective and efficient role in increasing awareness and reducing road accidents in Zimbabwe. So far I was not impressed with the results from dealing with them and certainly not impressed with their website that is badly designed and lacks basic information to make it useful to anyone looking to be more informed on Traffic Safety related concerns in Zimbabwe. The research they did should be readily available to the public and I don’t understand why the public needs to jump through hoops to obtain the results of the research that I would like to think was done for the benefit of the general public.

It’s extremely important for us to expect more from each other and certainly more from institutions like the Traffic Safety Council for Zimbabwe. Having said that, it’s also important for us to play our role as individual citizens in ensuring that other road users are well informed and respecting the traffic laws of our country. Let’s also promote the use of new technologies that will help reduce distractions for drivers and hopefully reduce the number of lives lost on our roads. Every time you get behind a wheel, think of it as holding a loaded gun and it’s really up to you to ensure that you don’t pull the trigger with the gun pointed at yourself or other innocent bystanders.

Remember my earlier question… What do you have control over, right now and each time YOU use the road that could save a life? What do you have control over? As you can see you may have no control over the state of the roads but knowing their state can help you adjust how you use the roads to ensure better safety for yourself and other road users. Let’s be safe on the roads…

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