Africa Comment

Ethiopia: Driving the Cause of Traffic Accidents

The Ethiopian Herald (Addis Ababa)
19 MARCH 2015 By Abraham Dereje

These days, it is common to hear traffic accidents that cause horrific damages on life and property. Everyday, reports on FM radios indicate that there is at least one traffic accident.

The major reasons for accidents happened to be the same. Drivers’ unwillingness to give way for pedestrians, mechanical failure of vehicles, disrespect of traffic rules either by drivers or pedestrians are among many reasons that causes traffic accident, according to reports.

From the point of view of the conception of criminal law, crimes are divided in to two- conduct crimes and result crimes. In the prior case, the focus is on the conduct that in itself is prohibited.

In the latter case, the focus is on proving that the conduct has caused a prohibited result or consequence. From this it is possible to deduce that the conduct of the driver or the vehicle during the occurrence of such fatal accidents is an issue of vital importance to know the cause of the accident.

As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’. However, in our effort to contain traffic accident, we seem to follow the reverse trend. Drivers or traffic polices focus on accident consequences instead of focusing on the cause. The drivers, instead of taking the necessary mechanical precautions before starting to operate their vehicles or during driving, focus on measures to be taken when accident is likely to happen while driving.

The traffic polices also most of the time work on tasks related to ensuring obedience to traffic rules and issues related mainly to external dimension of the over all traffic flow. Most of the time they are preoccupied with checking driving licenses, use or non-use of seat belts, and number of passengers in a taxi.

This is not to say that these issues are not relevant in the overall effort to prevent further traffic horrors. Rather, the aim of this writer is urging both traffic polices and drivers to give due emphasis to the other dimension, the internal side.

For instance, the mental state of the driver is directly tied to his conduct while driving or before accidents happen. Similarly, mechanical or technical states of a vehicle before its operation determines its capacity then after and its fitness to help prevent possible damage in the face of an accident.

So, both conducts are as vital to prevent accidents as the other issues that we are focusing on. It is rare to see traffic polices stopping drivers to check the mechanical capacity of their vehicles.

Drivers who chew khat and drink alcohols are not as such facing severe restrictions on driving in such a state that directly affects their conduct. Speed limit, though posted in every corners of the asphalt in the country is not as such obeyed and we do not see traffic polices stopping dangerous driving here and there.

It is wise to work on causes before their consequences unfold. When we look at experiences in the developed world like England, drunk driving may cause a ban from driving for not less than six months. It is strictly forbidden to take any other drugs and stimulants. Mechanically unfit vehicles are not allowed to be used.

Think of the number of old model vehicles, especially the taxis here in Addis, that might be stopped if we make the latter rule practical. Also, think of the number of drivers who may be banned for not less than six months, drunk and drug-induced driving and dangerous driving is to be strictly banned in our country.

But, we need to be more strict to prevent damages on property and life, which cost us billions of Birr every year. For this to happen, the cause, side by side with the effect should be given due emphasis.

Rwanda: Heftier Fines Not Solution to Road Accidents

19th March 2015

Of late, there have been a number of fatal road accidents that are pushing authorities to take drastic measures to curb them. At least 1.17 million deaths occur each year worldwide. Of those, 492 happened in Rwanda last year.The number might seem negligible compared to say, Kenya, where the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 3,000 and 13,000 deaths are recorded there annually.Senators have been grappling with how not to go down the Kenyan route and one of their suggestions is to increase traffic fines for offenders. Already the ones in place are exorbitant; between Rwf10, 000 and 150,000, but little has changed.

Most traffic offenders do not own the vehicles they drive; many are employees, so a hefty fine will only affect the owner of the vehicle who has to pay to avoid their vehicle being impounded. Penalties should be directed against individual offenders and not third parties. Instead of increasing fines, lawmakers should suggest deterrent measures, one of them being the introduction of the point system.

For each offence, depending on its gravity, points are deducted from an offender’s driver’s permit. The number of points deducted could then determine the penalties, including driver’s license suspension for a certain time, and if push came to shove, permanent withdrawal of the permit. Offenders who can afford it pay the fines and life continues; they can even afford to be repeat offenders.

We can only reduce carnage on our roads if pro-active measures are taken, but not ill-thought ideas that hardly make a dent on the prevalence of road accidents.

Road deaths, cancer and diabetes becoming Africa’s hidden epidemics

Urbanisation accelerating rise in health problems, while more cars on the road are pushing up accident rates, says World Bank, Monday 5 August 2013 11.34 BST

MDG : Road safety in Africa : Road accident in Mali

Road accidents are predicted to become the biggest killer of children between five and 15 by 2015 in sub-Saharan Africa, outstripping malaria and Aids. Photograph: Alamy

Road traffic deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to rise by 80% by 2020, according to a World Bank report, which found the region to have the highest number of accidents, but the fewest vehicles on the road.

An estimated 24.1 people per 100,000 are killed in traffic accidents every year, according to the bank. Younger and poorer people are disproportionately vulnerable: accidents on the road are expected to become the biggest killer of children between five and 15 by 2015, outstripping malaria and Aids.

“The poorest communities often live alongside the fastest roads, their children may need to negotiate the most dangerous routes to school and they may have poorer outcomes from injuries, due to limited access to post-crash emergency healthcare,” the report says.

Aside from the obvious distress caused by accidents, sub-Saharan Africa’s high-risk roads have a significant economic impact too. Crashes are estimated to cost African countries between 1 and 3% of their GNP each year, the report finds.

Roads and disease: common ground

The report considers road safety alongside rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cancer. The authors maintain that both represent largely hidden epidemics in Africa.

While there are a “whole bundle of different drivers” behind the rise in road accidents and NCDs, some of the causes show remarkable parallels, Dr Jill Farrington, the former Europe co-ordinator for the World Health Organisation’s NCD programme and the report’s co-author, says.

The shift towards urbanisation is a case in point. City residents typically take less exercise, triggering diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Rising incomes are driving demand for processed foods that are higher in sugar, fat and salt. The same factors result in increased car use and ownership, and more traffic accidents.

Alcohol consumption links the two. Though seven in 10 adults abstain from drinking alcohol in sub-Saharan Africa, those who do have the highest prevalence of heavy episodic drinking globally, the report says.

A lack of data makes it difficult to determine the extent to which traffic accidents are caused by alcohol. However, a study of police reports in Nigeria between 1996 and 2000 found that half of all car crashes involved drink-driving.

There is growing awareness of NCDs. Between 2001 and 2008, funding for cancer, heart disease and diabetes in developing countries grew sixfold. In 2011, the UN held a major summit on the theme. Even so, programmes to combat NCDs comprise less than 3% of global development assistance.

The lion’s share of public health spending and health-related donor aid goes to infectious diseases, particularly malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV and Aids. Policies and intervention to tackle these “big three” diseases are typically managed through separate “vertical” systems. The authors of the World Bank report argue that this silo approach is often counterproductive and co-ordinated health programmes are needed.

Integrated healthcare

The logic of a more holistic healthcare system is compelling, says Farrington: “If cars get faster on the roads and it’s unsafe, it will actually reduce walking and cycling, which will then have consequences for the development of obesity.”

There are practical arguments for a more integrated approach to disease interventions too. Many African countries have agreed to continent-wide commitments to combat NCDs, but they lack the resources to tackle each individually.

With the financial downturn, additional aid is unlikely, Farrington says. “The concern would be that if these [commitments] are all implemented separately, it would need resources and capacity beyond what is available.”

The report flags up early examples of where integrated, or “horizontal”, thinking is emerging. In Botswana, for example, health facilities set up for patients with HIV and Aids are being used to carry out screening and vaccinations for the human papilloma virus.

South Africa has developed a similar approach. Eight of the top 10 diagnoses in primary care are respiratory conditions. These relate as much to NCDs such as acute bronchitis or asthma as they do to infectious diseases such as TB and HIV. As a result, nurses are being trained to adopt a people-centred, rather than a disease-focused, approach to diagnosis.

“We wouldn’t be able to run a health system in the UK or any other so-called developed country that has these vertical programmes running right through it,” Dr Kalipso Chalkidou, international director at the London-based National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, says.

The aid sector’s obsession with targets is seen as a reason for the persistence of disease-specific policies; it is easier to measure vaccinations than calculate how many people have access to healthcare, Chalkidou says.

“Those who champion this individual approach to diseases and conditions should try and think more laterally,” she says. “It [integrated health provision] is going to happen, but how it’s going to happen and whether everyone involved is keen to make it happen is another question.”


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