Women Influence for safer roads in Namibia

ROAD Safety stakeholders are getting together to plan for the upcoming festive season under the theme ‘Do the Right Thing and Save Lives’ road safety campaign. As drivers, we all know that road safety is governed by the Road Traffic and Transport Act. There is thus no excuse to violate the law or go against what is reasonably right.

We also know that vehicles were made to help us move from point A to point B without causing any harm to ourselves and to others, this is because we are in control and as drivers we decide when, where and how to drive.

A lot has been done and many millions have been invested into road safety projects over the years. This is noticeable along our roads, at road checkpoints, newly constructed roads and all other efforts made to ensure that road safety remains a priority that ensure safety of all road users.

We also know that road deaths are not necessarily due to accidents and that road deaths from crashes are seldom “accidents”. They are most often preventable!

Many road crashes, where one vehicle caused the death of more than two people, or as in the tragic case where 13 people burned to ashes in a single crash, where the victims are young learners transported in an overloaded minibus or at the rear of overloaded bakkies are more devastating and horrific.

These road crashes leave the nation traumatised, while other drivers and their passengers become terrified of using the road. These recurring events remain a constant specifically to commuters and passenger that have no choice but to take a minibus or other unsafe vehicle again and again to get to their destinations.

        In general, Long Distance Travel (LDT) is known to be a desirable activity, both in the leisure and travel segment populations and income or more generally economic growth – on the one hand and technological progress providing cheaper, faster and more convenient service on the other would be the basis of historical trends towards longer annual distances travelled by citizens. The situation forces the operator to continually grow their business and funds, while the driver is rushing to ensure that at least he make enough money to cover his salary per trip.

For most long-distance public transport, drivers have become seriously antagonistic and aggressive as they often grab passengers, bags and belongings at all corners around the country. At the same time it is about how quick and fast the driver can drop off and pick up passengers between towns without resting. All this is done at the cost of passenger safety and places other road users at risk. This is also the time when long distance transport providers’ price lists increase overnight, and as a passenger you have no choice but to pay.

The increased rate of urbanisation, private car ownership and regional mobility requirements by government necessitated meeting the demands and travel needs of passengers between towns with at least provision of high quality passenger travel experience. However because transport is for profit the service is expected to be at least convenient, accessible, safe and secure, while at the same time affordable.

This is the only mode that facilitates the movement of people to ensure mobility in a dynamic and growing economy. The festive season, however, changes all that. The demand for transport increases so as the number of passengers and on the other hand the road safety risk ratio also increases.

Passengers take risks and make decisions without studying the situation at hand. As a result, they their lives are at risk in many cases. Most of the time they are not allowed to say anything but have to sit and allow the driver to drive in the manner he feels right for him. Whether the driver is drinking while driving, speeding, playing loud music and or changes a CD, USB and uses the phone while driving, the passengers do not have much say.

On the other hand, passengers become dangerous and can contribute toward road crashes in many ways. They become a serious distraction by drinking and become drunk, being loud and annoying towards other passengers and the driver, putting them in serious danger.

It cannot be disputed that some long distance passenger transport operators grow their business at the cost of passenger safety. Some see it as job creation in response to increased demand for road transport services. Negative factors have been observed for quite some time, such as the working conditions of public transport drivers, which can include increased stress levels, decreased wages and excessive demands being made on drivers, influencing work and resting times of drivers, thus compromising the safety of passengers.

The Women in Road Safety project is calling on all road users to do the right thing and save lives. It must become a priority to all drivers to ensure that their vehicles are safe; that each live is valuable. It is vital that we all work together to save lives and arrive alive at our destinations. Passengers must be vigilant at all times and record the details of the vehicle they are traveling in. they should also ensure that their names are recorded at the bus terminal where they board. Drivers must drive within the required speed limit and avoid overtaking where not safe to do so. Share the road with others without competing on the road. Value lives and ensure that all passengers arrive safely at their destinations.    

For more tips and how to become a Woman in Road Safety champion in your region contact hileni@aa-namibia.com or call +264 811279321.