By Frederick Philander
Pedestrian safety in Namibia is the nucleus of scientific research to be undertaken by the University of Namibia on behalf of the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA).
A memorandum of understanding to this effect was yesterday formally signed by the MVA’s CEO, Jerry Mwandinohamba, and the acting vice-chancellor of Unam, Professor Osmund Mwandemele.
“The MVA are already more than four years down the line with regard to finding the real causes for the many accidents daily occurring on Namibian roads, but we need to further explore the root causes thereof. Hence this agreement today,” said Mwandinohamba.
In his view, accidents primarily happen due to high speeds and human error resulting from drivers losing focus while driving.
“Unam must help the MVA to gain new knowledge to identify the behavioral patterns of both vehicle drivers and pedestrians. It remains a mystery why people still talk on mobile phones whilst driving. Programmes need to be designed to improve vehicle driving patterns in this country. This needs to be done for the MVA to better understand injury prevention and improved methods to be applied in accidents,” he said in the MVA’s quest to save lives.
The research, which will cost the MVA N$250 000 per year, will be done by selected final-year Unam students.
“We need information to plan for timely and better treatment of accident victims at hospitals. With more information the MVA would be in a better position to allocate its resources optimally.
“In these efforts we want to develop a greater degree of paramedic services and capacity, something at present very inadequate. Presently, such paramedics are only trained to provide intermediate life-saving treatment,” he said.
To him the focus on accidents by emergency services should be the saving of lives.
“Currently, we have the situation where local tow-in companies are normally first on an accident scene, then arrives a traffic officer and only thereafter an ambulance would arrive within the first 30 minutes of such an accident.
“In some cases an ambulance normally arrives some hours after the accident happened. We need to urgently look at the situation and come up with improved programmes,” he suggested.
In his signing speech, professor Osmund Mwandemele said that pedestrian safety is of great concern to Unam.
“The greater number of the 6 000 students on Unam’s campus are daily commuters. The majority of our students walk close to 20 km to the campus each day, thus being at very high risk as pedestrians. These students stand to benefit from interventions to result from this research study,” the learned man said.
In his opinion, walking all over the world remains the single most desirable and efficient mode of transportation.
“With increasing fuel prices and threats of obesity caused by lack of exercise and wrong diets, promoting walking will mean going back to basics, but walking has to be safe. I hope this research exercise will result in drivers who are more sensitive to the fact that pedestrians are legitimate road users deserving to be respected.
“I hope this research will result in a national campaign that will position Namibia as a model country for pedestrian safety,” he concluded.