Drunken Driving on the Rise

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By Fifi Rhodes WINDHOEK Though realatively sparsely populated, Windhoek could easily rank among the cities with one of the highest drunken-driving rates in the world, thus a drastic intervention is needed. Last year, drunken-driving deaths rose across the nation, with an 11 percent increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths. Statistics for the capital last month July show that 102 persons amongst a total of 180 tested, drove while they were under the influence of alcohol. The Windhoek City Traffic Department through the “Campaign Operation Broken Window” has now taken a huge step to get drunken drivers off the road, and to keep them off. The National Road Safety Council’s third campaign ended last month with high hopes that it’s being taken seriously. Driver fatigue, speeding, keeping a safe following distance and changing lanes safely were the crux of the campaign that started last year in August. “Major contributors to road accidents are excessive speed and too much alcohol or the use of illicit drugs. Over the years, there have been many campaigns to discourage drink and drive and the numbers of casualties from road accidents are just increasing, showing that the messages are not being taken seriously,” says the National Road Safety Council. In an interview with New Era, Chief Road Safety Officer Shilongo Nashivela said that road safety campaign targeted the peak periods to drive home the message. In 2003, statistics released from the authority indicated 10 957 accidents took place with 34 47 people seriously injured while 278 died instantaneously on the spot. Over the last seven months, statistics from the City Police show a total of 4 076 accidents were recorded in Windhoek with twelve fatalities and 165 serious injuries. Alcohol-related cases were given as 347. Most of the accidents happen as head-rear-end (313) while opposite direction collisions (91) and right turn facing oncoming traffic were 67. Same direction sideswipe accidents stand at 154 while head-on collisions where most fatal incidents occur, were 36. Some drivers reversing were involved in eleven of the accidents that were reported. Statistics also indicate that in Windhoek, most of the accidents happened during peak hours along Independence Avenue (89), Sam Nujoma Drive (340), Mandume Ndemufayo (37) and Monte Christo Road (25). A total of 165 people were seriously injured and 85 pedestrians were run over. Most of the reported road accidents are said to have taken place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Along the national roads, most of the accidents happened at hills, blind corners and others occurred while drivers were overtaking at zones where one is not supposed to overtake. “Arrogant” drivers with a disregard for speed limits have contributed to this horror especially during weekends on the national roads, police say. The police accuse certain drivers of having an “inconsiderate attitude” to speed limits. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ “Most accidents occur because of driver fatigue, as some drivers make bad decisions or choose to break the law,” Nashivela said. He feels people and the public at large should look at their attitude as they contribute towards the road carnage. “I guess what we need to do is start not viewing accidents as an act of god, or something that just happens. They happen because people often choose to drive in a state of intoxication,” he stated. Poor light, animals on the road and tyre bursts when driving at night were believed to have contributed to some of the crashes but could not be blamed for them all. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ “The biggest killer out there on our roads remains travelling over the speed limit or too fast for our conditions,” he said. A medical expert who for professional reasons did not want to be named said: “I think that people too easily forget that the human body is extremely fragile and when speeds get much over 120km/h, the chances of the human body being able to control those speeds drop off dramatically.” “Concentration needs to be sharpening but if you speed and think you can handle it, you’ve made a big mistake.ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ Modern cars make people feel safe and insulated but they have to remember the body is still extraordinarily fragile,” he said.

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