WE SHARE the frustrations of the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) at the escalating road accidents.
This is so because great strides have been made in improving the transport sector as Zambia prepares to become a prosperous middle income country by 2030.
Transformation of the road sector has come in form of a robust road infrastructure programme. If there is a sector that has greatly benefitted from Government’s generosity, it is road infrastructure throughout the country.
Most roads have either been upgraded to bituminous standard or been gravelled. RTSA, on its part, has been working day and night to sensitive road users on road safety rules and regulations.
That is why RTSA is concerned with the levels of disregard to road traffic regulations among motorists.
The continued disregard of road traffic rules and regulations is resulting in fatal accidents that are preventable as seen from Saturday’s fatal accident as a result of speeding and use of a goods vehicle to carry passengers.
On Saturday, 17 people died on the spot on the Mbala-Mpulungu road at a place called Kasimango village, an accident that could have been avoided had road safety rules been adhered to.
The 17 were among 62 passengers on board an Isuzu truck whose steering wheel developed a fault while descending near Lunzuwa Bridge at a curve.
Preliminary investigations suggest that the speed of the vehicle was excessive.
The passengers, members of Catholic Church, were going to Mpulungu for a church service from Senga Hill.
We agree with RTSA that road users should be using vehicles that are certified and authorised to carry passengers.
In this day and age when the public passenger system has improved, we wonder why groups such as churches should be using trucks to ferry members instead of hiring luxury buses.
Besides, church groups are expected to be thorough in their choice of transport and drivers.
Drivers should be subjected to medical check-ups and ensure that they have appropriate experience and licences.
The country can no longer continue losing citizens from accidents which can be avoided. In this accident, some casualties are bread winners in families.
When they are killed in these carnages, families lose income and the care and guidance that children dearly need as they grow up. Some children stop going to school and become destitute or street kids.
Those who are severely injured cannot put food on the table.
As for the owners of vehicles, in this case the truck, the hardware is damaged and translates into loss of business and income.
Ultimately, the country as a whole and the gross domestic product suffer a negative impact.
Members of the Catholic Church in Mpulungu and Mabala have suffered psychological trauma, so are residents of Mbala, Senga Hill and Mpulungu and indeed the whole province.
We hope RTSA will get to the bottom of this accident and bring the culprits to book. Many questions arise. Was the vehicle roadworthy; was the driver licenced; were there road signs at the curve? All these questions beg for an answer.
We know that RTSA has worked hard to reduce accidents but have these measures – including the ban on night travel – worked? We do not think so.
Additionally, allegations of massive corruption on the roads are growing louder every day and no tangible efforts seem to be done to correct the situation.
Life if precious and should not be lost because of the negligence and greed of one person. It’s clear that more needs to be done to cure this cancer that is growing by the day.
As a mitigation, however, RTSA should, in liaison with police, health authorities and other stakeholders set up rescue teams in all districts with toll-free numbers clearly displayed on all major roads linking towns and cities so that when accidents occur, they should rush within a short time as some lives could be saved through rapid response.
The loss of life on our roads is preventable.