Columnists Features

Are dual carriageways solution for Great North Road accidents?


WHEN will there be an end to loss of lives on the Great North Road in fatal road traffic accidents?
This is one of the many questions that begged for answers after 25 people died while many others sustained injuries on April 9, 2016 when two buses collided on the Great North Road in Kapiri Mposhi.
On this fateful day, a Copperbelt- Lusaka-bound Wada Chovu Marcopolo bus collided head-on with a Kabwe-Copperbelt-bound Mercedes Benz minibus in Luanshimba area between 09:00 hours and 10:30 hours.
All the people who died (includingthe driver and his conductor) were in the Mercedes Benz. Three teenagers who sat on the back seat and a woman who lost her two children survived.
In the Wada Chovu bus, 47 people, among them the driver and his assistant, sustained injuries.
This accident happened four days after six passengers died and others sustained injuries on the same road near Green Leaf area in Kapiri Mposhi when a Mazhandu Family Bus lost control and overturned.
The February 7, 2013 road horror in which 54 people perished in Chibombo on the same road when a Zampost Services bus collided head-on with a Freightliner is still fresh.
These are among many fatal road accidents that have claimed lives on the Great North Road, leaving others with permanent injuries.
Without doubt, even if there are other alternative routes within Zambia and to neighbouring countries, the Great North Road remains a reliable route.
This is why the volume of traffic has tremendously increased over the years.
The Great North Road is simply overburdened by traffic because it accommodates a lot local and foreign buses, truck and trailers and cars of varying sizes ferrying hundreds of passengers and transport cargo every day and night.
This development has brought about a challenge in traffic management hence significantly resulting in an increase in the occurrence of accidents.
Over-speeding, blatant disregard of traffic regulations by some drivers, fatigue and absence of road marks are among factors blamed for accidents on the Great North Road.
The road also has blind curves or spots in some sections. These areas do not have sufficient road signs to guide road users.
And the growing practice of using branches by some truck and bus drivers (especially among foreign drivers) to signal that their vehicles have broken down is a source of concern.
This trend, which seems to be a lawful practice, if not addressed poses a danger to the lives of travellers.
Guard rails erected at some bridges and in certain sections such as curves to safeguard vehicles have been either damaged through accidents or vandalised.
Despite these components being important on roads, they do not receive attention when damaged or vandalised.
And whether it is true of false, some accidents are blamed on evil powers for human sacrifice.
This is why nowadays it is common for travellers and bus drivers to seek divine intervention for travelling mercies before embarking on their journeys.
In all these accidents, the country’s economy is also negatively affected while families are crippled.
Among the many solutions that are on the drawing board to address accidents is the transformation of the stretch of the Great North Road from Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi and the Ndola road into a dual carriageway.
It is gratifying that President Lungu has prodded Government agenci e s tasked with the responsibility of building dual carriageways to expeditiously conclude their assignment.
This is one of the long-term measures but before this project commences, short-term measures such as regular patrols by the Zambia Police Service and Road Transport and Safety Agency should be intensified.
The road should have visible marks, road signs and motorists should ensure they religiously adhere to traffic rules.
It is also for bus operators to ensure that they only employ qualified drivers.
The author is senior reporter at the Zambia Daily Mail

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