Brian Bilal Mwebaze is back with another column highlighting experiences, stories and initiatives from the world of youth and road safety issues in Africa. A culture of road safety is growing in low and middle income countries but some approaches and attitudes still need challenging...Brian explores.
Ever been driving in a public taxi, you miss someone by a hair’s breadth and passengers applaud the driver, screaming ‘You should have finished him (pedestrian, cyclist, other vehicle) off’? Have you experienced the confusion of munching, regurgitating, and re-digesting this brilliance of utter madness? It is through this kind of a masterpiece that led one wise man to say “Understanding the behaviour and actions of humans is as good as future impossible tense!”. That wise man was me. (Save me the stick).
A typical Ugandan road.
Anyways…Having a rat escape from the cat’s canines literally justified by my escape back to Uganda following sporadic uncontrollable reactive and counter reactive political clashes in Juba, South Sudan midway last month, I had another encounter to never forget. Within the capital, Kampala lies an ant-like vehicle pattern characterized by public taxis which I hurled myself onto as I headed to my hotel. Like in most developing countries, the roads are narrow with limited designated pedestrian walkways, no two wheeled vehicle lanes:-you’d say our roads are organisingly disorganized.
As our driver maneuvered through the traffic, we had a near-miss with a commercial cyclist (also referred to as Boda Boda) as our vehicle lightly hit him from behind. Neither the rider nor the passenger sustained any injuries but they seemed visibly scared to death. It’s like both the rider and passenger just saw a parliament of ghosts sipping orange juice with that trademark Kermit line ‘None of my business!’ encrypted on their faces.
To my utter shock, about 6 fellow passengers were cheering the driver for a job ‘almost well done’. Within the lines (as I still need a PhD in Luganda:-the local language), I read that “These goons need to be swept off the road for good. They are a menace!” This is a common occurrence among young males living in urban and suburban areas.
Well, Uganda looses about 3.400 lives annually on the road according to Uganda Police (2013). But ofcourse, with the gaps at every stage of data collection and under reporting, the number is significantly higher. More than half of the registered injuries are pedestrians and two wheeled vehicles. Almost 50% of crash victims are more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
As we correctly know, multitasking and driving don’t mix. Even for skilled and experienced drivers, driving safely requires that you use most, if not all, of your mental capacity: it doesn’t take much for your driving to be distracted. You would expect empathy and patience to share the available road with calmness amongst ourselves. Besides, yelling at the driver or rider is already a form of distraction (auditory, physically, visual, cognitive) and passengers could earn themselves an unplanned encounter with their creator adding salt to an injury.
Young males might need to do a little more shopping…of ‘PATIENCE’ Cheers from Bangladesh. Wait, that’s another long story related to Emergency Response!
Stay calm as Christmas is close!