By Dr Moses Amweelo The annual Christmas holidays have arrived and it is time to rest. With it comes the hope for a joyful and restful period when everyone looks forward to being with relatives, friends and loved ones. This is a period when the economic activities of the entire world come to a standstill, it is a time when most businesses close their doors to allow their employees an opportunity to rest and to recover in preparation for the demands and expectations of the new year. Dishearteningly, it is also the time of the year when many lives are unnecessarily lost through road tragedies of unspeakable horror. While conveying the season’s greetings to all fellow Namibians and especially the motoring public, we are particularly concerned that the holiday season will be marred by vehicle accidents and their associated human trauma. On 13 December 2006, seventeen people perished between Grootfontein and Rundu in what has been termed the worst accident in terms of the number of deaths this year (New Era, 15 December 2006). Last year, another accident occurred in which 28 people lost their lives in a head-on collision between a heavy duty truck and a medium-sized passenger bus travelling to Rundu, which was also one of the worst road accidents in our country. The human suffering caused by these accidents and the resultant loss in human resources to the country sadden the nation immensely. Statistics on accidents provided by the National Road Safety Council show an increasing trend in road traffic accidents over the past few years. Statistics also reveal that a high concentration of the gruesome accidents occurred over the festive seasons. Whereas Christmas is supposed to usher in a spirit of love, peace, joy, safety and caring, it is obvious that many drivers lose all sense of these values when on vacation. We are particularly concerned that this festive season will be like the ones we have had over the past few years, and that many people will again lose their lives on our roads, or suffer severe injuries and pain. We know that the Namibian Police Traffic Unit and all municipal traffic police departments will again with all diligence carry out traffic law enforcement operations over this period. We all plead that no leniency be shown to those who are violating our traffic and transport laws. The whole nation assures you that your dedication is being appreciated and that you enjoy our full support in bringing law and order onto our roads. We are making an earnest appeal to the drivers of heavy and light motor vehicles and of motorcycles, cyclists and pedestrians alike, to heed the rules of the road traffic laws. We are sure that we together can make a difference by: – obeying the road signs and road markings; – keeping within the speed limit; – not partaking of alcoholic drinks before or while driving; – not overtaking on blind rises and never where prohibited by a road sign or a barrier line; – everyone in a vehicle is wearing a seatbelt; – ensuring that the motor vehicle is in a mechanically sound condition; – resting regularly on long journeys and when drowsy; – using the road sensibly; and – being patient, courteous and considerate. A closer analysis of accidents from 2000 to 2003 reveals that the top six causes for road accidents are all attributed to speeding, incorrect following distances, inconsiderate, reckless, negligent driving and overloading. All of these are human related. When we talk of road safety, we need to take account of the following three broad categories that play an important role, namely: human, vehicle and the environment. The human impact is by far the most important one because it is the only one that has the capacity to reason. According to the empirical study, many road accidents result from unintentional human errors, thoughtlessness, negligence, foolhardiness or ignorance of the road signs. Vehicles that are being manufactured nowadays are capable of travelling at high speeds in excess of 200 km per hour and sound reasoning is required when one is tempted to travel at that kind of speed. What consequences will that have on the safety of yourself, your family and other road users? As more people and vehicles will be on the road, we as a nation call upon all traffic law enforcement agencies to be vigilant and take immediate and strict action against anybody that contravenes traffic laws. A ” zero-tolerance” approach should be maintained. The road safety mission to be fulfilled by all roleplayers involved in road traffic safety management is: to manage road traffic in a multidisciplinary integrated manner in order to improve the quality of safety on Namibia’s road network. Finally, we wish all road users including pedestrians and all traffic law enforcement officers a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. Be careful on our roads and we all pray that all will be alive, happy and well upon return to your homes after the festive season.
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