The Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) released statistics to show that the number of people dying in traffic accidents had increased in the past year. The blame has largely been heaped on drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding or recklessness. Only 20% of the blame has been attributed to infrastructural challenges and weather conditions.
Driving under the influence is a big problem and it is not helped by the legislation on who can, where they can and when alcohol can be sold. It is well known that minibus drivers openly drink spirits while on duty. Vendors sell alcohol throughout the day and I personally witness people, drivers and kabaza taxi cyclists included, as early as 5 a.m. partaking of the drink at Bwandilo in Lilongwe. The lack of decent taxis also means that people drive home from pubs under the influence.
Recklessness is also a known problem especially among public service vehicles and other unruly drivers in general. Some carelessness can be blamed on people who bribe officers to obtain licenses yet don’t know how to drive. Weather is a factor but probably, as rightly put, to a lesser extent.
Then there is speeding. Those of you who have read my blog for long enough know about my dislike of Malawi’s speed limit policy (for lack of a better term). With better cars and better roads I really don’t see the use of some of the speed limits both in town and on the main highways. But I digress! On speeding, perhaps there are two ways of looking at this – exceeding the speed limit and speeding (or the misused term ‘overspeeding’). Now look at the image below.
That Liwonde – Zomba road is narrow, has no shoulders and is a few feet away from shops and market stalls yet it has a decent speed limit of 60km/h. The Lilongwe Bypass on the other hand is basically the opposite but has a speed limit of 50km/h! What’s the rationale? Fundraising via fines, perhaps? Your guess is as good as mine!
Apart from protecting drivers from themselves I am made to believe that speed limits are meant to protect other roads users like pedestrians from cars. But take a look at the scene below.
Limbe – Midima – Mulanje road. The picture doesn’t really catch the hustle and bustle that was taking place at the time. People were dashing across the road to make a quick sale on the other side. Most times people didn’t even look first before crossing. Other people stubbornly ignored my car and continued to obstruct traffic. Had I run over someone here, who would have been to blame? I hadn’t exceeded the speed limit (even if I had tried), I hadn’t been careless nor was I under any external influence. But had I even accidentally run over someone’s pinky toe, that would probably have been the end of me, my car and all the occupants. Mob justice!
The scene above is exactly the same, probably worse at Lizulu in Ntcheu and numerous other places across the country.
Look at the Nation Newspaper article below.
I have heard too many times of drivers being charged with “reckless driving”. But is this always the case?
I once gave a lift to a traffic cop and posed this question to him. If someone ran into the road just in front of my car and I ran over him, would that amount to reckless driving? The cop managed to carefully skirt around the question without giving a definite yes or no. I am not sure if he did this deliberately or he was just one of those people who can’t give straight answers. But I remain skeptical that the majority of cases where people are run over in the middle of the road or are hit while on the side of the road are due to recklessness.
Move markets off the road
I would love to see legislation being put into place where pedestrians are also charged for recklessness on the road. The driver can’t almost always be blamed when a death occurs. Even when driving within speed limits, a car can easily run over someone. And if that someone was the one in the wrong, let him or her face the music.
Roads are meant for cars not fruit and second hand clothes benches. Highways are not vending grounds. Roads are not places for taking selfies. The longer this reckless pedestrian issue is ignored, the more frequent pedestrian deaths will occur.
Then there is livestock…
The struggle is real!