Road Carnage. What’s Wrong?

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An impressive number of road campaigns have been run throughout the country of late, yet people dying in the carnage on our national roads far exceed expectations. Statistics indicate that as many as 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 183 accidents were reported during the 2004/2005 period; and the period 2005/2006 recorded 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 001 accidents. And these were only the reported ones. In this past month alone, we have had reports of some of the most gruesome accidents in the country where scores of people’s bodies were grotesquely mangled, while others were burnt alive and beyond recognition. In one bizarre incident this week, bodies of victims of one road accident were involved in yet another when they were subjected to the indignity of not only being violently flung out of the vehicle but even out of their caskets. To crown this, the accidents have taken on a grim twist in that the vehicles end up bursting into flames, incinerating the trapped occupants, sometimes burning them alive, which makes it very difficult to identify the victims, because they cannot be recognized or counted. So what could be going wrong? Assuming that the observation that most of these accidents are alcohol-related is valid, could it be that people’s drinking habits have changed for the worse? Could it be that people are becoming more and more reckless and negligent? Or could it perhaps have something to do with our campaigns? Talking of campaigns, we realize that “Operation Ngambeka” was launched and run through the 2006 Easter weekend. This campaign covered the City of Windhoek and the towns of Keetmanshoop, Otjiwarongo, Swakopmund, Rundu, Oshivelo and Katima Mulilo. It ended after Easter, on April 18. Recently, on August 24, the third Broken Window Law Enforcement Campaign was launched, a sequel to the first campaign in November 2004, and the second one in July 2005. This campaign was launched based on the successes of the first two, and the successes of other previous ones for that matter. So, these campaigns do achieve some success. The question remains, however, why these campaigns are confined to urban areas, to the city and some towns in the country. They are confined to these short roads, and yet the accidents continue to plague the long-distance highways where speed, one of the evils cited, is inevitable. Another question would be why these campaigns come and go, with some especially targeted for holiday seasons only. Appreciably, these campaigns do achieve results while they last and after their completion, but aren’t we perhaps creating the perception that road-users can be complacent during times when no campaigns are in progress? One might suggest campaigns throughout the year, to keep road-users on their toes all year round, and all over the country. But what would such exercises cost, and who would foot such a phenomenal bill? On the other hand, what value can be placed on human life? And if the campaigns fail to achieve what they are intended to, what solution would be in sight? Perhaps what Namibia needs are, in the words of the Governor of the Hardap Region, Katrina Hanse, earnest prayers to end the carnage on our roads.