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Project to reduce road accidents takes off

TRANSPORT and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba this week officially launched a new legacy project, the Road Safety Management System, which is earmarked to reduce road traffic accidents in the country.

Speaking at the launch in Lusaka, Mr Mushimba said, “The Patriotic Front government is aggressively implementing interventions that will use a combination of law enforcement, road safety education and intelligent traffic solutions to raise our road safety profile.”
Each day, six lives are lost on Zambian roads, 20 people are seriously injured and 90 crashes are reported, not to mention the many people who are left critically injured. A prevalence of under-reporting of serious crashes means that the actual number of deaths is likely to be much higher than the reported figure.
“Statistics show that 85 percent of road crashes are caused by human error-related factors such as drunk driving, speeding and using a cell phone while driving,” said Mr Mushimba.
“The number of vehicles on Zambian roads has tremendously increased over the past few years. Along with this increase in the vehicle population, the number of road crashes and fatalities has significantly increased.
“While the Government has embarked on a robust road sector development programme through the Link Zambia 8000 project to increase the capacity of the road networks to accommodate the increased vehicular traffic, the current road safety profile of our road network is still inadequate to guarantee road safety among road users.”
President Edgar Lungu has declared road safety a national priority and therefore a public private partnership (PPP) structure has been established between the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) and Intelligent Mobility Solutions (IMS), a private sector partner. The Kapsch Group established IMS as a Zambian-based company to provide investment and international experience in transport technologies.
The Road Safety Management System is projected to create over 1,500 direct jobs and 4,500 indirect jobs for the Zambian people. It will also broaden RTSA’s presence with the establishment of over 30 additional RTSA outlets which will be fitted with mechanised motor vehicle inspection equipment. Road traffic enforcement will be enhanced, which is critical in promoting road safety and changing unsafe behaviours on our roads.
Zindaba Soko, the chief executive officer of RTSA, said, “The Road Safety Management System follows an integrated road safety strategy, which has six main thrusts. They are:
• Vehicle registration and secure number plates as the foundation to best manage our nation’s road safety programme;
• Vehicle testing to ensure that all vehicles comply with safety requirements;
• Overload control and weigh-in-motion to prevent damage to our roads and thus help to make our roads safer;
• Cross-border traffic management to manage, in particular, all the freight vehicles that transit through Zambia from their origin to destinations elsewhere;
• Law enforcement to ensure that all the rules of the road are abided by as a critical element to help reduce crashes and save lives; and
• A traffic management centre to manage the overall process and to facilitate post-crash response where crashes do occur.
The Road Safety Management System is completely self-sustainable and will not require funding from Government.
The project does not involve any disposal of state assets and will be implemented on a ‘build operate and transfer’ basis. At the end of the concession term of 17 years, all the assets under the project will vest in the Zambian state.
The United Nations declared the Decade of Action programme to help save lives on roads throughout the world. The global programme is built on five pillars of road safety management, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer road users and post-crash care. Zambia is a signatory to the UN Declaration and is committed to improving road safety.
Traffic Management Control Centre – the entire programme will be managed and coordinated by a central traffic management control centre. All the tools mobilised through this Public Private Partnership will be managed from the Control Centre to reduce congestion on roads, improve traffic flow, direct road safety law enforcement, manage vehicle testing and licensing, mitigate damage caused by overloaded cross border trucks and facilitate post-crash response.
Road safety law enforcement will support traffic officers to patrol our roads and take action on a range of moving violations. They will conduct road-side inspections ranging from unsafe and reckless driving behaviour, to spot checks for road-worthiness and overloading.
Vehicle inspection centres are critical for road safety as un-roadworthy vehicles are one of the main causes for crashes in which people are killed and maimed. Well-equipped vehicle testing centres will assist our drivers to ensure that their vehicles are not killing machines.
Electronic vehicle registration is important to inform us exactly how many vehicles there are on our roads, the categories and ages of these vehicles, and whether these vehicles are properly registered to be legally driving on the roads. The e-Zamtis vehicle database will be updated and data verified and kept up to date through secure number plates.
Cross-border traffic management ensures that trucks passing through Zambia for commercial purposes contribute towards the cost of building and maintaining the roads from which they benefit.
High-speed weigh-in-motion/overload control is important because overloaded trucks cause disproportionate damages to our roads. It is only fair that truck owners and hauler companies which overload, should pay for damage to the roads through overloading. High-speed weigh-in-motion technology will let trucks within the legal limit continue without interruption, while those trucks guilty of overloading will have to rectify the problem before they are allowed to return to the road. Overloaded public service vehicles will not be tolerated.
The author is head – public relations
Road Transport and Safety Agency