By Fabian Amukwelele
WINDHOEK - For many families the experience of losing a family member or a friend in a road accident can be very confusing and traumatizing.
Even more frightening is the harsh reality that whenever our loved ones or a friend is about to go on a road trip, our heads immediately unsettle with the thought and we doubt if we will ever see them again.
The months of May and June were marked with a string of horrific road accidents, with family members mourning almost every weekend.
According to the MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) Fund, a worrisome spate of serious fatal road crashes were reported over the past two months.
The truth be told - we live in a critical time and it is unbelievable that road accidents are taking a heavy toll on the country with a population of just below 2.5 million, leaving many families suffering from the losses caused by road traffic accidents. In many instances, the breadwinners and other members of the family are sent to their untimely and early graves, leaving behind loved ones in a state of despair
A few years ago I was personally involved in a road accident. Desperate to get to my village I hitched a ride on an overloaded white Toyota bakkie, with a canopy. A few kilometers into the journey fate struck and the Toyota bakkie I was travelling in overturned and rolled over three times.
At that moment I saw my life flashing before my eyes and thought to myself, “Oh my God, I am only 18, this can’t be it.” Luckily for everybody that was on board, we all lived to tell the tale and escaped the accident with minor injuries. However, I know that it could have ended badly for us. This is just one example out of many untold stories of road accidents.
Ignorance and the willful flouting of traffic regulations and rules on our roads are the cause of road carnage. Motorists do not abide by the laws prescribed in Namibian learners and driving licence manuals.
These booklets stipulate the general responsibilities of motorists and the proper conduct when operating a vehicle on our roads.
For example the booklets clearly state that motorists should ensure that the vehicle they are operating is road worthy prior to driving it and that overloading is an offence.
Apart from the fact that the general public does not abide by our traffic regulations and rules, another cause of road accidents on our national roads is wild animals and their unpredictable behaviour.
Although there will always be people who think that this is an imperfect world and that road accidents are a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, road accidents are by and large avoidable. What we need is a shift in attitude and a moral awareness and respect for the laws governing the use of our roads, if we are to reduce road carnage in this country.
The past and current road accident reduction initiatives by the MVA Fund have laid, and continue to lay key foundations for future success. In my view those efforts should be intensified and strengthened considerably if Namibia is to achieve the goal of reducing the number of road accidents on our roads.
Perhaps it is about time that all stakeholders come on board and actively share ideas on how to reduce the escalating road accidents.
By this I am implying that, the Roads Authority, the Ministry of Works and Transport, the MVA Fund, the Namibian Police and local authorities all need to play their part. Together they can perhaps benchmark our national response against best practices from other countries that have successfully managed to reduce road traffic accidents.
The government should consider incorporating or introducing both practical and theoretical driving courses in all high schools and tertiary institutions of learning. This will allow learners and students the chance to gain longer practical driving experience, considering the fact that it’s often the young inexperienced generation who are bad drivers.
Every year, after the rainy season the same roads that were repaired the previous year continue to have fresh potholes.
The Ministry of Works and Transport needs to do something about this, since unfit roads are contributing to the escalation in the number of accidents on our roads.
Another problem area is our children who like to play in the streets. Driving in Katutura, especially in Donkerhoek, Dolam Wanaheda, Okuryangava and Damara location, you will find the streets filled with children playing in the street, almost any time of the day.
Even though the City of Windhoek has built playgrounds for children in all these areas, from the look of things these playgrounds are not keeping our kids from playing in the street and from becoming road accident statistics.
Local authorities need to conduct a study and find out what the majority of our kids prefer in terms of recreational resources, instead of just building playgrounds, since only a handful of kids seem to use these playgrounds.
Finally, as bleak as Namibia’s future appears, road accidents are facts of life all over the world and any one of us can easily become a statistic. However, it is very important that we as a nation come up with efficient and effective ways to reduce the human suffering that emanates from road accidents, through collective efforts and by being proactive in our thinking.