KAMPALA -Road safety experts have questioned the role of traffic checkpoints after records showed that more than 300 people perished in crashes during the festive season.
The Police reinstated checkpoints along major highways in the weeks before the season on the orders of President Yoweri Museveni who had highlighted cases of indiscipline and night crime. Museveni had earlier directed security agency commanders to remove the same checkpoints and roadblocks after traders claimed they were causing unnecessary congestion and delays in the transportation of goods.
But traffic records show that the checkpoints might have scored on the side of reducing crime but not on road crashes, loss of life and injuries.
A breakdown by the Traffic Police shows that 35 lives were lost between December 30, 2022, and January 1, 2023, while 55 lives were lost between December 23 and December 26. Another 81 died between December 4 and December 10. The country also lost 82 people between December 11 and December 16, according to the Traffic Police Spokesperson, Faridah Nampiima.
The same records show that up to 79 people died in the first week of January, the period within which people who had travelled to villages to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Day were returning to urban areas.
Sam Bambanza, the Executive director of Hope for Victims of Traffic Accidents – HOVITA and Joseph Komakech Ojambo – the Executive Director of Responsible Drivers Uganda – RDU – believe it is time Traffic Police and the Ministry of Works collaborated with other stakeholders to change their approach in addressing road crashes.
Bambanza said that even when traffic officers stop drivers at checkpoints, they focus on driving licences, third-party insurance or overloading, yet this wasn’t the only cause to accidents. Bambanza added that in order for the checkpoints to be purposeful, police should focus on the state of the vehicle like tyres and brakes, and also empower passengers to tell the behaviour of the drivers at every checkpoint.
He noted that most drivers know the spots where the checkpoints are stationed and observe almost all road regulations as they approach such points.
Nampiima said police checkpoints have really helped to apprehend traffic offenders. This, she argued with figures from last week where more than 9,580 traffic offenders were apprehended and issued with express penalty tickets.
She added that police had continuously sensitised and urged people to be responsible road users but many have refused to comply. Nampiima said people are dying on the roads because they are driving recklessly, driving when they are drunk, driving vehicles which are in dangerous mechanic conditions and speeding.
Similarly, Ojamba said checkpoints were no-longer helping in reducing crashes and were only effective for intercepting criminals. Ojambo thinks managing indiscipline on roads needs mobile traffic personnel taking to different directions so that drivers and riders are unable to predict their patterns.
“Checkpoints have got nothing to do with road crashes. They are static; drivers and riders keep alerting each other where traffic officers are stationed. Most people are knocked dead in urban centres. But police officers are always outside such places,” Ojambo said.
By not being stationed in a given area, Ojambo said drivers and riders would know that they can bump into them at any time and therefore they might become more responsible.
But Nampiima said whether traffic personnel are mobile or static, it is upon the road users to change their attitude. She wonders why someone who knows his vehicle is in a dangerous condition decides to put it on the road. Some drivers, according to Nampiima, resort to energy drinks when exhausted, instead of resting.