Brian is back with his regular monthly column on all things road safety in Africa, especially youth issues! This month he reflects on a personal experience of a road crash, with a boda boda driver. A scary experience that illustrated his experience in handling first aid situations as well as a reflection on what could change to stop dangrous road behaviours.
Strange things continue to happen on our roads most so often that one’s blood pressure could be high enough to fly a plane. When I was younger, cycling was so much fun as there were fewer people who owned motorcycles as finding a pregnant guinea fowl today. That has changed so fast in my sub urban town of Mbarara with an estimated 70,127 (as at 2014) yet harbouring more than 30,000 motorbikes, also referred to as ‘Boda Boda’s’. (Named after the taxi bikes that go border-to-border).
Boda Bodas lined up in Africa.
In fact, we don’t know how many motorbikes we have in this town, let alone the country. Wait, this means, for every 2 adults, 1 owns a motorbike putting the need for ‘Boda Boda’ family planning to peak value. It’s no surprise as there isn’t really the second best alternative to travelling within the town, as most passenger taxis offer routes outside to neighboring smaller towns. ‘Boda Bodas’ enjoy a kiss- me- here kiss-me-there relationship with motorists and pedestrians as they struggle to share the rat-hole sized but surprisingly tarmacked road. Most children and adults alike either walk to town or jump onto ‘boda boda’s’ . The heart attack you will get for thinking about existence of City buses, in town passenger vehicles or at worst a train is still gathering momentum to strike you.
Believe it or not whole families often ride Boda Bodas.
For the record, there isn’t a ‘Boda Boda’ Rider Training School in this town which is seeking to be upgraded to city status. Most riders learn their trade from their peers with less knowledge and adequate time to familiarize themselves with road traffic rules and regulations. 2 Wheeled vehicles are the number 1 leader of hospitalization by injuries at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital Emergency ward. As you might correctly suspect, young males aged less than 29 are most prone. This is a contributing factor to why mortality rate from road traffic injuries has been included in the World Health Organizations 100 Core Health Indicators in the Post 2015 Agenda. This is a major step in the right direction to providing funding and necessary attention to reduce avoidable deaths for the world’s untapped resource: young people.
So, on that beautiful Tuesday morning, as I was heading to work, a rocket-speeding ‘Boda Boda’ appeared on my driving mirror, impatiently lighting and signaling to overtake. As the traffic upfront was busy, I signaled a warning to not overtake just yet. The rider whom you’d think had just got a phone call to take the president to an emergency hospital, I suspect didn’t even understand my signal hit the back of my car with a sound which I am quite familiar with in Fast and Furious 7.
Getting out of the car, I found the gentleman and his passenger unconscious and as a trained EMT who carries a first aid kit, together with the mammoth of a crowd who quite sure knew they were dead, gave them first aid and manual stabilization before driving them to the emergency ward at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. They’ve spent 8 days so far nursing arm fracture and tibia fracture respectively. I will do a cost evaluation of how much time and money they’ve lost as well as their personal productivity. (Wish me luck)
While our governments are busy promising heaven on earth-like roads and constructing short term roads, we are yet to see a standard road that will not just take a test of time but also take provision for pedestrian walkways, 2 wheeled vehicles and 4+ wheeled vehicles. A University equivalent structure would not just continue to provide evidence for death and injury concerns on the road, but also advise on ever changing trends on Engineering (road design), Education (Knowledge, skills, attitudes) Enforcement (law on who rides) and Emmergency (activation of ems and evacuation procedures). But again, policy enforcers have to first learn to WALK TALL whether it’s a local rider or a Member of Parliament violating road rules. It doesn’t seem the case so far. #RideSafe