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Vehicle inspection OK, but human behaviour is better

The ministry of Works and Transport has this month launched its mandatory vehicle inspection initiative.

Executed on its behalf by Swiss company Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), the inspection takes place at different spots along the main roads leading out of Kampala, and is to be paid for by the vehicle owners.

The initiative, ministry officials say, aims to ensure that only roadworthy vehicles take to the road in a bid to reduce accidents, particularly those caused by vehicles in dangerous mechanical condition.

Indeed, any intervention that would help reduce our notorious road carnage is welcome. However, the cost implication on the motorists justifies a discussion as to whether this move should be top on the list of measures to curb road accidents.

The annual Traffic and Road Safety report for 2014 doesn’t suggest it should be. According to this report, human factors accounted for 81.8% of all road accidents in Uganda, followed by unknown causes at 15%. Vehicle condition came a distant 2.2%, road condition at 0.8% and weather condition at 0.5%.

For good measure, the report concluded: “Therefore, the main emphasis of road safety strategies must be on improving road user behaviour...the greatest potential for reducing [road] accidents lies in influencing road users to act more responsibly.”

If the traffic and road safety statistics for 2014 are to be believed, even if all the vehicles in dangerous mechanical condition were removed from Uganda’s roads, we would still have to contend with 90% of road accidents caused by other factors!

Of the 18,686 road accidents registered in 2014, of which 13.5% were fatal, reckless driving and careless driving contributed 5,670 and 8,708 respectively. In comparison, brake failure and tyre blow-out accounted for just 270 and 112 respectively.

Therefore, if the ministry of Works and Transport wants to effectively reduce road accidents, it should pay attention to such police reports and devise measures that will change motorists’ behaviour.

The successful Fika Salama (arrive safely) operation, which has made an immediate impact on the otherwise notorious Masaka road, offers good lessons.

Vehicle inspection is sensible, albeit another cost to be met by already-stressed motorists, and yet its contribution to the reduction of road accidents is likely to be negligible.

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