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Rogue drivers menace on Zimbabwe roads

by Staff reporter
23 Oct 2022 at 09:06hrs | Views
THE general behaviour of motorists on Zimbabwe's roads ranges from shocking to bizarre.

It is now common to see motorists breezing through red traffic lights or overtaking in prohibited zones. In fact, it is not rare to see a car overtaking a vehicle that is also overtaking another.

During peak hours, they even have the audacity to drive against the flow of traffic.

Motorists are now in the habit of mounting road kerbs or even parking dangerously.

Such traffic violations, and many others, are happening on the roads across the country.

What makes such offences pervasive is the fact that offenders are normally not made accountable, and some of those arrested can easily pay their way out of trouble without facing the full wrath of the law.

This trend makes reckless driving thrive, often with fatal or heavy consequences.

Life is now needlessly being lost from time to time.

"My father was knocked down by a commuter omnibus driver, who was driving along a pavement while fleeing from the police. He was dragged for several metres before the driver fled from the scene. Miraculously, he survived, but lost his right eye in the process. The offender was not arrested," said Josiah Tambudzai of Epworth.

Reckless driving has been common among public transporters, particularly kombi and mishikakashika drivers. Private motorists have now joined the group.

Statistics released by police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi show that a cumulative number of mushikashika operators that have been arrested this year stands at 52 379 as of October 20, while a total of 5 454 unlicensed vehicles have also been arrested in the period in question.

The country has witnessed an increase in the number of accidents over the years, and experts feel the trend will remain on an upward spiral if corrective measures are not taken.

According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), local road accidents occur every 15 minutes.

A report presented by the TSCZ early this year revealed that five people die every day in road accidents. Speeding and driving without due care have been identified as major causes of accidents. Most accidents are said to occur on Fridays and Saturdays. The situation gets worse during popular holidays.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency's current crime report, a total of 7 888 drivers were arrested for driving without due care last year compared to 6 858 in 2020.

"We always encourage all motorists to undergo defensive driving training. This equips drivers with the prerequisite conscience to abide by road regulations, which will reduce major road accidents. We appeal to drivers to desist from reckless driving in the interest of safety, and save precious lives," said TSCZ managing director, Mr Munesu Munodawafa.

He said they were saddened by the number of accidents that continue to take place on the country's roads. In April, 14 people died on the spot on the Harare-Mutare Highway after a bus collided with a haulage truck. The accident is said to have been due to human error.

Early this month, more than 10 people were seriously injured when a commuter omnibus and a Nissan vehicle collided in the morning at the intersection of Jason Moyo Avenue and Angwa Street in Harare.

The accident occurred after the commuter omnibus driver ran a red light.

"We once again encourage motorists to plan their trips in a manner that avoids chances of travelling at night, where visibility is inevitably poor compared to day travel. We also urge drivers to exercise extra caution, especially when ferrying children," added Mr Munodawafa.

"TSCZ is saddened by the recent accident that happened in Nyanga involving schoolchildren, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives. We would like to pass our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. Furthermore, our prayers remain with those who are still recuperating. We also wish to remind drivers that overloading is against the law, and as such, it is a punishable offence."

Concerns have been raised over procedures in the issuing of driver's licences. For instance, one of the requirements for one to obtain authorisation to drive is taking night driving lessons. However, this is not happening in most cases.

It is believed the situation gets worse as some even do not see the need to go through the Highway Code; they get their provisional licences after paying bribes. It said the same with drivers of public transport vehicles, who are expected to achieve a 100 percent pass in the provisional licence test. Most of them, it is said, end up buying their way through.

As a result, roads are littered with drivers who cannot comprehend simple road rules and regulations.

The Government has since warned corrupt VID officials and driving schools. Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona said all found receiving bribes will be discharged from their duties while driving schools doing the conniving will be de-registered.

"We have been receiving reports that VID and driving schools are the centres of corruption. For one to get a driver's licence he or she must pay a bribe of amounts ranging between US$100 and US$150. In this Second Republic, this must stop," he warned in March this year.

"A combination of impatience, lack of courtesy, recklessness and blatant disregard of road rules, as well as unlicensed drivers, are the causes of most accidents," said one disgruntled motorist, Mr Jeffrey Sayimani.

However, in small towns like Chegutu, Marondera, Rusape and Macheke, the council police, with the help of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), have been instrumental in maintaining sanity on the roads.

"Every motorist knows that you cannot just park your car as you wish or violate road regulations on any day because the council police and ZRP are always on high alert," said Marondera-based Shadreck Mubako.

"If you make a mistake to stop or attempt to pick up anyone at an undesignated point, you will have your car impounded by the authorities that usually conduct joint operations in the town," added Lenos Ngwarati, a commuter omnibus operator who plies the Harare-Marondera route.

In Mt Darwin, the council and police have successfully taken charge of the roads.

However, in Harare, it appears the municipal police are more interested in clamping vehicles for non-payment of parking fees. To their credit, though, they are visible at some of the busiest intersections, where they control traffic flow.

Harare City Council spokesperson, Mr Innocent Ruwende, said the local authority was dealing with road traffic offenders.

"We are guided by our by-laws. We clamp vehicles. We have motorists who do double parking, obstruct traffic flow and park in undesignated bays or areas.

"We also follow up on relevant documents like rank discs, vehicle licences and route authorisation, among other things, so that motorists operate within the stipulated parameters," said Mr Ruwende.

African Road Safety Observatory's Roads4Life champion, Mr Tatenda Chinoda, said driving in the Harare Central Business District is a nightmare.

It is said traffic jams, caused by drivers who blatantly disregard road regulations, are now common.

"Those who did the engineering of the roads network in Harare during colonial times never projected that there could be massive growth in population. However, we have drivers who act as if they are always in a hurry, creating illegal lanes in order to go faster than everyone else. This is a recipe for traffic congestion and increases chances of accidents," said Mr Chinoda.

He urged motorists to abide by the traffic regulations to ensure smooth flow of vehicles and safety for all road users.

"Drivers must be patient and always practise due care when driving."

The United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 is aimed at halving road traffic crash fatalities and injuries by 2030. Worldwide, 1,3 million people are killed every year in road crashes and over 50 million are injured.

Africa records the highest fatality rates per million inhabitants.

Source - The Sunday Mail