By Amon Baita
“But these boda-bodas…!” might as well be a Ugandan saying at this point. As they veer in and out of traffic, seemingly coming out of nowhere, disregarding traffic lights and a million traffic rules, they are seen as a menace on the Ugandan roads due to recklessness and lack of respect for the law.
This notion was backed up by a report in the Daily Monitor of February 13th 2018 under the headline, “Boda Bodas kill 7000 in three years.” But is recklessness all that is making the use of boda bodas on Ugandan roads unsafe?
There are four major aspects of Road Safety Management that need to work in tandem to comprehensively improve and ensure road safety.
These are: Infrastructure, User Behaviour, Post Crash Response and Vehicle Inspection.
It is believed that when all these aspects of road safety are addressed adequately according to the needs of road users, road safety can sustainably be improved upon. Whereas the high rate of boda-boda accidents is attributed to what we can call User Behaviour, are the other factors given enough consideration?
Infrastructure is essential to road safety, but there is little evidence of our road infrastructure being designed to accommodate the high volume of motorcycle users on our roads.
Our road system is designed with the assumption that roads are mainly used by cars, with little consideration for pedestrians (highlighted by the severe lack of pavements and zebra crossings), let alone boda-bodas. With no spaces designed for them in an already congested and out-dated road system, is it a surprise that boda-bodas fall victim to so many deaths?
Post-Crash Response refers to how quickly medical and other services are able to respond to an accident, when it does happen.
First responders would include an ambulance on the scene, traffic police officers, transportation for the vehicle and fire services if need be.
The most important of all these is the speed of response of medical services, but with the minuscule number of ambulances in the country and incredibly limited capacity of most medical centres, many accidents turn into deaths even if they could have been avoided with prompt medical care.
Lastly, the issue of Vehicle Inspection is one that is assumed to refer to cars and Lorries, but applies to motorcycles as well.
Over time, and with poor maintenance, motorcycles are just as liable as cars to pose a danger to their riders and passengers as weak as to other road users.
While the government had put in place Mandatory Vehicle Inspection in order to address this blind-spot; the Public Private Partnership they signed with SGS to implement this program is in jeopardy with a parliamentary committee recommending the contract’s termination.
Without an adequate alternative, we may never be able to get rid of those motorcycles and cars that put lives at risk just by being on the road.
Accidents happen due to a number of different but interconnected factors, and improving road safety needs to involve a holistic understanding of this phenomenon.
It is not enough to say that the recklessness of boda-boda riders is the sole reason why boda-bodas cause so many deaths.
It is important that we as a country see that we are doing everything to address our infrastructural gaps, healthcare gaps and vehicle inspection gaps to greatly reduce the number of boda-bodas falling through to their deaths.