Road carnage takes massive toll on life

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Usually the columns and articles we write as logistics professionals are about our sector, what we do and how we get others interested in this crucial pillar of the Namibian economy. This column is different, at this moment we are using every ounce of willpower not to simply rant and rave and ask what is wrong with us collectively.

We are talking about the number of crashes, injuries and deaths that our nation endures on its roads each and every day. Since 2010, we have seen more than 4,500 sons, daughter, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts and brothers and sisters as well as friends lose their lives. It will not be long before we reach the mind-numbing figure of 5000 people!

That’s right, 5,000 individuals who have lost their lives needlessly on our roads.
So, why the loss of lives, why do Namibians excel in killing themselves and their fellow road users in such numbers? Our roads are not congested, we live in one of the least populated countries of the world and have an excellent road network. In fact, we almost need to be seeking each other out to actually have a crash. The transport and logistics sector is acutely aware of the problems on the road and the destruction to lives these crashes cause.

Goods being delayed because of traffic jams, people not being able to work because of injuries and rehabilitation, or never coming to work again because they perished. All of this has a huge impact on the Land of Brave, socio-economically as well as psychologically. Transportation should set us free and allow us to explore, visit and stimulate the economy. Every trip should not lead to the thought: “Will I make if back alive?”

Together with fellow stakeholders, like the National Road Safety Council, Walvis Bay corridor Group, DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), MVA, Roads Authority and many others Namibian-Germany Centre for Logistics (NGCL) has been spearheading a taskforce to try and combat these accidents and road deaths.

Not only is the human cost incalculable, but the economic costs of these accidents is astronomical. We look into what precautions can be taken, what initiatives can be taken and what can we do collectively, individually and at almost no extra cost to curb the loss of lives?
What is being done about it? The Government, Roads Authority, the Police and many other institutions like our own all collaborate on campaigns. Transportation companies educate and train their drivers in road safety as well as how to drive defensively and adhere to the speed limits and laws at all times. But, we have and need to take our own responsibility.

Don’t drink and drive, don’t get into cars with people who drink and drive. Say something about. Shame them if need be. A little shame or an argument is worth it if it keeps your friends, family, you or even a total stranger alive.

Have trucks with phone numbers that allow people to report their driving. Create a Cult of Coolness around “Arriving Alive”, something that does not seem to be the case at this moment. Use speeds bumps if necessary on the most dangerous roads to curb speeding.

Mobilising the army to patrol the roads, a visible presence of law enforcement should make people ease off the accelerator. It may sound drastic to mobilise the army, but losing more than 700 lives a year on our roads is a national emergency.

Shock tactics don’t seem to work, motivation and stimulation through rewarding good driving habits don’t seem to work. A complete change in mindset needs to happen. This is something that needs and should permeate every level of Namibian society, no matter what colour, creed, social status or religious affiliation. However much we hope and believe the roads need to be kept safe by all of us, it is our responsibility. Experience and the number of deaths have clearly demonstrated that faith is what we have to rely on, however this is being tested!

Professor Eugene Madejski, the head of transport and logistics studies at NUST, is currently working on the funding and establishment of a research and teaching ‘Chair in Road Safety’. The aim of which, is to carry out systematic and consistent epidemiological scientific research in investigating and identifying solutions for Namibia’s current road safety challenges.

The Professor of Road Safety will over the next five years establish and manage a Windhoek-based road safety research centre. The research team will carry out applied research collecting data, measuring and analysing current driving malpractice, thus building up a real-time picture of the depth of the problem, and seeking to find ways to identify practical solutions across Namibia.

A key part of this professorial chair’s responsibilities, will be capacity building to match young transport academic researchers with overseas universities and to ensure that Namibia builds up a cadre of qualified doctoral, masters and honours specialists. These experts will in turn be able to return to Namibia to share RTC investigation and research best practice to help lead the fight against fatalities and injuries on the nation’s roads.

NGCL and its stakeholders are in, will all other road users also join us in making the roads safer?

* by the Namibian-Germany Centre for Logistics team

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