By Felix Tjozongoro
CONCERN over road accidents is on the increase, and the number of deaths recorded to date is a huge concern to Namibia Management Traffic Solutions (NTMS) and all Namibians.
NTMS wants to raise an issue that seems to be pushed under the carpet, and that is the involvement of Churches on the road safety issues.
Road safety this far has been the outcry of the MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) Fund, the NRSC (Namibia Road Safety Council) and of course NTMS with the various programs developed, with the aim to reduce fatalities on Namibian roads.
However, just last week, we have seen loss of lives on a bigger scale with the minibus that overturned and killed about 5 people on the Windhoek and Okahandja road.
Another serious accident was another minibus on the Okahandja and Karibib road where close to 6 people lost their lives, about two weeks ago. More serious accidents can be mentioned.
I have a serious problem, seeing Pastors only getting involved on road safety matters during funerals.
We see them during memorial services and at the gravesite as they try to console the bereaved families. Of course during such services, no harsh words or warning is heeded on obeying the road rules, as people are grieving. Why don’t our Pastors try the “prevention is better than cure” example.
Talk to Church members during other services or create platforms at Church and have less funerals relating to road deaths.
We have not seen any of the Churches in Namibia, raising and taking action against the “evil” called road accidents.
This evil needs the Churches to get involved and not just observers.
No amount of money pumped into road safety from Government or the MVA will address this evil.
Contributions on existing programs will assist in reducing road accidents and fatalities, when Churches get involved.
Church leaders need to join the party and be involved.
Churches have more followers or Churchgoers and thus a bigger group of people than what the MVA or the NRSC can reach with normal radio or TV advert. These are the masses that we need to convey road safety messages to and warn families on road safety dangers.
NTMS is of the view that Churches can get involved in the following manner:
1. Having road safety messages as part of their sermons on Sundays. Even if it’s a 5-minute message by an elder of the Church prior to the main message.
2. Inviting road safety experts such as NTMS, the MVA, the NRSC and others to present various topics at specific church organized activities.
Like a Youth day to discuss topics of drinking and driving and its consequences, just to mention an example.
3. Organizing mass prayer sessions on roads that are evil targets and where serious loss of lives were encountered. Some wise sayings are claiming that roads with such accidents could be the targets of souls that perished on such roads, and that are not at peace.
4. Having road safety days as part of their annual calendars, where various talks and topics on road safety could be addressed. At least one such each quarter.
5. Partnering with road safety companies to have kiddies’ programs as part of the Sunday School activities.
Imagine a scenario where one Sunday per month during Sunday School is dedicated to road safety, how immense the results will be.
Not all schools have road safety programs, and if Churches could take the lead here, we will for sure reap the results.
6. Most Churches have youth groups and even youth choirs. These groups are falling in the bracket of people perishing annually in bigger numbers on our national roads. Engagements with these groups from the Church could assist in the reduction of fatalities.
Imagine video clips being shown to these groups on results of accidents or consequences of driving under the influence or consequences of matric farewells that could go wrong.
7. From a community service point of view, have Churches joining the Police; by setting up “community road blocks” on the national roads, and providing tea or coffee for free at such a specific point.
At this point, the police could randomly stop vehicles and the Church people will have a word or two with the driver and the family in the car, while coffee is served. This could be a stop of about 15 minutes. Imagine if such was between Okahandja and Otjiwarongo or between Rehoboth and Windhoek or Omuthiya and Ondangwa or on some point on the national roads!. Elements of fatigue, reckless driving, driving under the influence, speeding, etc could be addressed by these joint efforts.
Finally, I would like to thank the Hon Mensah Williams, who has arranged a prayer session in Khomasdal to address the loss of lives on some notorious roads in her area. Such noble and brave ideas are what we would like to see other Churches follows.
Gone are the days when Churches were confined to prayers in their buildings. These are the days when Churches must get hands-on involvement on road safety and other communities challenges!!
In order to reduce road carnage, we need to re-think and this outside the box. Let’s stop thinking the old traditional way, and think that an older solution that was applied during the 1980’s is what is good for today. We have a different generation now.
It’s time to talk road safety via smartphone apps that can work on an iPad or an Android device. It’s time to chat road safety via social websites such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s time to share road safety messages via SMS, via Bluetooth when a driver parks his car at Maerua Mall to do shopping.
Let’s change the law and enforce all public vehicles to have speed limiters as mandatory and govern their speeds. Let’s start to do things differently!!
• Felix Tjozongoro is a road accident investigation expert
MD: Namibia Traffic Management Solutions (0816454540)