Windhoek-A negative attitude on the country’s national roads, especially by long-distance drivers, has contributed to the blood shed in road accidents, a minibus owner told New Era yesterday.
Domingos Quinguri, a public transport operator since independence, admitted that “the making money attitude” among some public transport operators is more important than adhering to traffic laws.
Quinguri observed that many minibus drivers are notorious for speeding because “they want to make money”. The situation is such that drivers hardly rest and as a result fatigue also contributes to road accidents, said Quinguri.
He said many public transport drivers take five hours to arrive in the north of the country, a trip which at least should take eight hours.
“Our drivers don’t have time for entertainment. They eat and sleep in their cars and when it comes to driving they think it’s a sport and this causes accidents. It’s not supposed to be like that,” said Quinguri who is a member of the Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta).
Furthermore, some customers do not properly plan before embarking on a journey and subsequently pressurize drivers to speed with comments such as ‘you are driving too slow’, revealed Quinguri.
“The speed we are supposed to adhere to is 100km per hour and it is indicated at the back of our buses, but you find drivers going up to 180km per hour. They overtake anywhere and everywhere and when they overtake us we are compelled to speed as well – so it’s like a competition.”
He said police officers tend to focus only on public transport operators when doing inspections at roadblocks.
“Police must not treat public transport operators like the enemy. They should not just look at public transport operators. Private drivers are also very reckless and some of them are illegal taxis as they pick up passengers without having documents to do that, yet at roadblocks they are overlooked. Private drivers are also major contributors to car accidents,” Quinguri reflected, emphasizing: “We have to change our attitude.”
Quinguri said defensive driving should become a priority for all drivers as this could save many lives. “Some drivers don’t have that skill. Back in the day we were taught defensive driving but today it is different.”
Meanwhile, Nabta vice-president Jeffrey Platt yesterday admitted that for many public transport operators being on the road is a “business”.
“It’s not acceptable that law enforcement traffic officers are not visible at all times. If law is strictly enforced there will be no accidents. A driver is like a child – if he sees there are no traffic officers he will speed. He has to take as many trips as possible because it’s a business,” Platt said.
He said the police are aware of the situation on the roads and “they should do something soon”.
“The condition of our roads is good, whether it’s in the city or towns or on the highways. We have very good roads compared to other countries, so it’s just our drivers.”
He said all drivers need to be disciplined and not just public transport operators, adding that NaTIS (Namibia Traffic Information System) should be stricter in awarding licences. “Licences of ‘bad’ drivers should be revoked,” he adds.
Nabta members operate from Rhino Park where registered members are roughly 200. Monte Cristo has about 300 members, while Rehoboth has about 100 members, said Platt.
Despite failing to provide statistics on how many Nabta members were involved in accidents on national roads, Platt said most complaints by the public concern overcharging.
“We give them written warnings whereby we threaten to revoke their driving permits,” said Platt, stressing that Nabta members are encouraged to abide by the oganisation’s code of ethics.
Statistics from the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund indicate that 1 764 vehicles were involved in accidents from January to May (until May 11, 2017). Out of that number 209 were company vehicles, private vehicles were 1 135, public vehicles were 235 while 185 vehicles were not accounted (not known whether private or public).
Meanwhile, data from the Traffic Law Enforcement Division of the Namibian Police Force indicates that during the period May 3 to May 9 this year, as part of ‘Operation Opotuli’, a total of 14 912 vehicles were stopped by the police who issued 1 116 drivers with a summons for violations of traffic laws.
This number included drivers tested for alcohol, and their vehicles’ roadworthiness. Government vehicles stopped were 470, public vehicles stopped were 1 837 while 4 854 private cars were stopped.
Furthermore, the highest alcohol test outcome was 1.09 while the lowest was 0.00. Meanwhile, statistics from the police also indicate that 30 summonses were issued for speeding amounting to N$43 250.
Furthermore, 240 summonses were issued for drivers who failed to present driving licences, which amounted to N$238 750. Furthermore, 23 drivers failed to present their road transportation permits and were summoned, which amounted to N$66 500.
Carnage on roads
Headlines that dominated the local media these past weeks are road crashes that claimed lives in different parts of the country.
On May 2 the local media reported that 31 people were killed over the long weekend. Out of this number, 15 people died in an accident that involved an Iveco minibus with 24 occupants.
The minibus collided with a pickup (bakkie), which had five occupants. Ten of the people in the minibus burnt beyond recognition when the bus caught fire upon impact in an accident that occurred on the B1 main road about 85 kilometers south of Otjiwarongo.
Not long after that the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund said the 178km stretch of road between Okahandja and Otjiwarongo has claimed more than 20 lives this year, “making it the deadliest road in the country,” The Namibian newspaper reported.
Again, just this week, local media reported another accident on the Otavi-Otjiwarongo road where a mother and baby died after the vehicle they were travelling in crashed into a stationary truck.