Editor's Comment

Don’t compromise people’s lives

THE road accident deaths of five ‘illegal’ passengers who sat on top of sweet potato bags loaded in a light truck on Sunday yet again bring to the fore the consequences of failing to learn from past blunders.
The tragedy also brings into question whether motorists and road law enforcers are doing enough to prevent such avoidable deaths.
It is a pity, and even annoying actually, that Zambia has continued to lose people in road traffic accidents. Road mishaps cannot be totally eliminated but many can be avoided.
It is evident that the safety of people on roads is seriously compromised. There are just too many road-unworthy vehicles plying the country’s roads. There is also the highly risky habit of transporting people on trucks laden with goods.
Yet these roads are manned by traffic police officers and it is difficult to understand how such vehicles laden with goods and people are allowed to go through such road blocks.
With due diligence by people tasked to conduct road blocks by ensuring that all vehicles are road-worthy, some accidents and loss of lives can be avoided.
Owners of the vehicles, too, have a premium to ensure that they keep them in good condition to minimise road accidents and avoid what happened on the Chirundu-Kafue road at Kapilingozi Hills on Sunday.
For people to travel on top of sweet potato bags loaded in the truck is clear evidence that the country is not learning from mistakes of the past.
Examples abound in Zambia of accidents arising from similar circumstances.
These examples stretch from as far back as 2005 when 45 Kawambwa Secondary School pupils out of 110 died on the ill-fated truck after the vehicle overturned.
In 2013, there was a horrific accident involving pupils from Chipepo Secondary School on the famous 17 hills in Gwembe district.
There are several accidents which motorists and travellers can point to and learn valuable lessons to avoid recurrences.
The frequency of accidents on roads is unbecoming. What is even more worrisome is that these accidents are happening at a time when roads have been facelifted.
If there is a sector which has received adequate attention lately, it is road infrastructure. Numerous roads are being rehabilitated and upgraded.
Many are appreciative of the significantly improved state of roads, but there is inadequate corresponding commitment to adhere to road regulations.
For many motorists, the good roads are a passport to excesses which include over-speeding, over-loading, carrying passengers illegally and using vehicles that are not road-worthy.
These may be in the minority, but they are the ones that push the horrific statistics up. They must be dealt with accordingly, along with those that abet these accidents by neglecting their responsibility of checks.
Let’s also not forget the social costs of pain, grief by affected families as well as suffering by survivors who have to live with injuries, either for sometime or the rest of their lives.
In fact, grief is hard to measure considering that families value each other at varying levels depending on the way they relate. But if it involves a close member, the cost is immeasurable because a life lost is never recovered.
The country is robbed of citizens who are expected to contribute to the economic development of the country through their skills and knowledge.
We know that the Road Transport and Safety Agency is doing fairly well in helping to enforce road regulations, but clearly this is not a task that has any room for dropping the guard.
If anything, the game must be raised.
Road blocks should be supplemented with increased mobile patrols on the highways to nip unworthy vehicles in the bud.
Those that allow defective vehicles through the checkpoints or vehicles laden with people (illegal passengers) must also be punished. Let’s not compromise on the safety of people.


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