IT IS a pity that Zambia has continued losing lives through road accidents.
A week hardly passes without hearing about accidents. Two days ago, several lives were lost on the Great North Road in Mkushi in a terrible road accident involving a Power Tools bus, which was heading to Kitwe from Nakonde.
Many others suffered injuries and are admitted to hospitals in Mkushi, Kapiri Mposhi and Kabwe.
While death cannot be avoided, most of the accidents on our roads are due to human error. They, therefore, can be avoided.
Some drivers throw caution to the wind and take road traffic laws in their hands. They have no respect for other road users and do not observe traffic signs.
This recklessness by public passenger vehicle drivers is evident everywhere and every day on both intra-city and inter-city routes. They just don’t have any regard for other people’s lives.
They forget that a moment of poor judgement will have far-reaching repercussions for them, their passengers, their employers and the country as a whole.
Most casualties are breadwinners in families. When passengers are killed in these carnages, families lose income, care and guidance that children need.
When they are severely injured, they can’t put food on the table.
So, children and dependents won’t go to school and become destitute.
Further, the buses and goods are lost. These translate into losses not only for bus owners and owners of the goods but as a country, our gross domestic product (GDP) suffers a negative impact. Society also suffers psychological trauma.
While some accidents were in the past attributed to night driving, the Serenje accident happened in broad daylight.
Visibility during the day is good and drivers are assumed to be in good physical and mental condition having slept.
Therefore, the accident involving the Power Tools bus is vexing.
It has puzzled the nation because night driving was banned for public service vehicles such as buses to save people’s lives.
We do not know what else the Road Traffic and Safety Agency (RTSA) ought to do to regulate public service vehicles to avert what transpired in Mkushi.
It is clear, however, that laws may not be enough to curtail road accidents.
Owners of public transport should take interest in the management of their fleet and drivers.
Although bus operators may not entirely be at fault for certain accidents, they ought to understand the moods of their drivers to be able to determine their suitability for duty on certain days.
Drivers should feel free to share their situations with their supervisors instead of venting their frustrations or unmet needs on innocent passengers.
We urge RTSA and traffic police not to relent in monitoring public passenger transporters and taking tough measures against those found guilty of negligence.
Banning operators may not necessarily be the solution, especially if the fault is entirely that of a single driver who makes a serious error of judgement.
Hundreds of other employees should not suffer for the sins of one person.
RTSA should, however, not hesitate to come down heavily on anyone – bus operator or driver – who is found culpable.
Compensation for accident victims should also go beyond transporters meeting funeral and medical costs. If it means changing the laws to improve compensation, let that be so.
This latest accident also underscores the urgent need for improvement of Zambia’s highways to provide enough space for broken down vehicles to be off the road and for room to overtake slow moving vehicles.
This is one of the reasons why the Lusaka-Ndola dual highway project is a wise decision. With more resources, the Great North Road from Kapiri Mposhi to Nakonde must take the same shape – a dual carriageway.