VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
THE Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) has recently introduced speed cameras on selected roads of Lusaka to counter the escalating number of traffic accidents.
The agency is through the Advanced Road Traffic Management System (ARTMS) monitoring traffic offences on the roads.
The move though progressive, has raised a heated debated among motorists, with some questioning the implementation of such a programme without putting in place proper signage on the highways.
The other argument by motorists is on the speed limit on some highways.
According to RTSA, the advanced road safety management system project comes with 30 mechanised motor vehicle inspection centres which will be built countrywide.
The technology system is being implemented by the Intelligent Mobility System (IMS), an Austrian company through a 17-year concession.
Under ARTMS, mobile policing vehicles will be used to check the compliance of motorists to various highway requirements and obligations.
It comes with the electronic check points for road enforcement and the speed management system which is meant to manage the excessive speed.
“We have secured most of the land where the centres will be built. The project also includes the construction of the state-of-the-art command centre for the purposes of administration of system,” RTSA chief executive officer (CEO) Zindaba Soko said.
The cameras have so far been installed along Kafue, Great East, Airport and Mumbwa roads.
A month after the installation of the speed cameras, 45,000 offences were captured, translating into K13.5 million worth of fines. The money has been collected from the offenders who pay K300 for each offence.
Billy Chipoma is not a happy man because so far, he has received three SMSs for overspeeding. This means that he is expected to pay K900.00 through the bank.
“It is unfair to expect people to pay such an amount in this economy. Firstly, the said cameras are hidden and it is like the agency is expecting motorists to make mistakes which should not be the case,” he lamented.
Mr Chipoma said he was not aware about the installation of speed cameras on the roads until he started receiving text messages.
He has since appealed to the agency to put road signage to alert motorists about the speed limit on particular roads.
Another Lusaka resident, Kunda Museba feels RTSA is implementing the advanced road traffic system in an unco-ordinated way.
Mr Museba’s sentiments were echoed by lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia and University of Lusaka Jones Kalyongwe.
However, RTSA chief executive officer Zindaba Soko, dismissed these claims, saying the advanced road safety management system was well co-ordinated.
In justifying the introduction of speed cameras on the highways, he says excessive speeding is one of the five major causes of road crashes in Zambia.
“Over 2, 000 people die each year as a result of accidents involving speeding vehicles. It is clear that there is a clear link between speed and fatalities. The road fatalities in Zambia are high and people are dying. This is RTSA’s major concern,” Mr Soko said.
He said the country has a bad trend of road crashes, dating back to 2012 when 2,234 lives were lost.
“In 2013 alone, 1,851 lives were lost in road crashes, while in 2014, over 1,859 people died. In 2015 and 2016, over 2, 000 people died as a result of road crashes, mostly caused by overspeeding” the RTSA CEO said.
Mr Soko notes that driving at an excessive speed decreases the amount of time that a driver has to avoid a crash.
“Once a crash occurs, it is much more likely to be severe when the vehicle is moving at a high rate of speed,” he said.
The new system of checking the compliance of motorists to traffic rules is expected to eliminate the use of physical check points on highways by RTSA and police officers.
RTSA has 70 road traffic inspectors against 760, 000 registered motor vehicles.
According to RTSA, the cameras are not only meant to monitor the speed of motorists, but also to check other traffic infringements such as overtaking on a solid line or curve.
The Zambia Road Safety Trust (ZRST) is appealing to RTSA to set out clear rules defining how speed cameras would be used, and also ensuring that all camera sites are conspicuous and visible before the implementation of the project.
“Speed cameras and speed sign posters on road sides are important warning features for road safety. They must be visible. Surprisingly, speed cameras seem to be hidden,” ZRST chairperson Daniel Mwamba says.
He noted that motorists are caught by surprise by way of a fine via SMS for over-speeding.
ZRST argues that drivers need to be sensitised because the speed cameras are meant to improve road safety and prevent road crashes as well as related deaths.
“The aim of speed cameras is preventing, detecting and enforcing speed, including encouraging the behaviour change of drivers. Breaking any speed limit is an offence and it is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of the limits,” Mr Mwamba said.
Mr Mwamba has called on RTSA to ensure that they sensitise the public about the advanced road traffic system to encourage compliance.
“It was also cardinal for the agency to have involved relevant stakeholders in the implementation of the system,” he said.
The Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba says the introduction of speed limit cameras by Government is meant to reduce accidents on the roads and save lives.
However, Mr Mushimba would have loved to see proper sensitisation of road users and the installation of signage on roads before the implementation of the programme.
However, the minister has said that the public must not view the introduction of speed limit cameras as a fundraising venture but rather a measure to improve road safety.
In response to public outcry, RTSA has given offending motorists 30 days from the day of committing the offence to pay the fines through the bank.
The agency remains resolute in the implementation of its advanced road safety management system.
In this vein, they are urging motorists who have sold their vehicles to ensure that they officially change ownership of their vehicles to avoid being cited for any traffic infringement.
The number of registered vehicles in Zambia stands at 760, 000, and of these, only 50 percent are active in the RTSA system. This has prompted RTSA to call for the re-registration of vehicles.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka