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MUMBA Mwansa.

Understanding night travel ban

ON NOVEMBER 27, 2016, Statutory Instrument (SI) 76 of 2016 came into effect and coincidentally, barely two days later, one of the passenger buses heading to the Copperbelt collided with a Tanzanian fuel tanker, which saw one person die on the spot while 49 others sustained injuries.
This was unfortunate as Government just effected SI 76 of 2016 in a bid to help reduce road traffic accidents, which have mostly been attributed to night driving of public service vehicles.
Transport and Communication TEMBOMinister Brian Mushimba recently announced that a research showed that public service vehicles account for 55 percent of accidents occurring at night.
Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) chief executive officer Zindaba Soko also said according to research conducted since 2013, the agency discovered that public service vehicles account for 72 percent of all road fatalities.
This prompted Government to introduce a law that restricts the movement of public service vehicles, for both passengers and goods, to only operate between 05:00 hours and 21:00 hours.
This statutory instrument has led to almost all bus operators adjusting their schedules in a bid for their buses to arrive at their destinations within the stipulated time. This, however, has its pros and cons.
The move by Government to introduce a law that restricts the movement of buses and trucks is commendable as most of the fatal accidents witnessed in the recent past have been caused by either the long-distance passenger buses or trucks.
This law, which has also been effected in other countries like Botswana and Kenya, has seen the light of day as Kenya’s National Transport and Safety Authority has reported that the night travel ban has resulted in a 25 percent reduction in road accident deaths in 2016.
Therefore, if all public service vehicle operators abide by this statutory instrument, among other measures, Zambia could also record a decrease on the number of road traffic accidents.
However, SI 76 of 2016 could also prove to be disadvantageous, especially to members of the public who travel at night using passenger buses. Why do I say so? Since buses are only allowed to travel between 05:00 hours and 21:00 hours, a number of bus operators have adjusted their timings, where the last bus for the Copperbelt route, for instance, has been scheduled for 14:00 hours.
Yes, Government is simply protecting the lives of its citizens, but on the other side, what will happen to those people who have emergency trips? Some people are restricted to only travel late in the afternoon or even in the evening, not because it is their wish, but because they have other important commitments during the day such as attending to businesses and going to work.
On the part of bus and truck drivers, the law could prove to cause a boomerang effect. This is because some drivers may, in a bid to meet their deadline of 21:00 hours, end up over-speeding or causing other traffic offences that may also be fatal to members of the public.
Therefore, my call to Government, through RTSA, is to ensure that they hold dialogue with public service vehicle operators so that there is a 50/50 kind of agreement in order for the statutory instrument to have a good meaning to the country and achieve its purpose.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.