By Tabora Bojang
As road traffic deaths continue to rise in the country, experts in the transport sector are lobbying government to take much greater action and impose mandatory driver training for any new class of drivers to lesson accidents.
Several driver trainers and supervisors, who spoke to The Standard maintained that road traffic injuries are now becoming a leading killer of young people and highlighted the need for strong policies and enforcement to save many avoidable casualties.
Although there are several factors which result in road accidents, unofficial statistics show that over 80 percent of road traffic accidents are caused by human errors.
Amadou Jallow, a veteran driving inspector at Safety’s Way Driving School, said “too many lives are lost needlessly” on the country’s roads, 85 percent of which are avoidable if the driver involved knows what to do.
Jallow, who is one of the security trainers on UN Standard Driving, continued that there is no excuse for inaction hence the government should partner driving schools and impose rules which will oblige that everyone driving in the country go through driving schools.
Asked if the problem is not also exacerbated by underage unlicensed drivers, Jallow replied: “For me it is not about age but the attitude. If we do not change our attitude, the accidents would continue to spike amid the syndrome of ‘I don’t care or I own my vehicle’.”
Modou Lamin Badjie, the head of administration at Front Star Driving School, said road accidents in the country are becoming alarming and have unfortunately not been given the required attention.
“The government should step in and partner with the driving schools or even subvent them to ensure they train would-be drivers at low costs to ensure everyone driving in the country goes to a driving school before using the highways.”
Abdoulie Badjie, chief inspector of police and principal testing officer, said Gambians should do away with conventional methods of driving and make use of training schools to curb the menace of road accidents.
“It is true that there is a high number of road accidents and in fact most of these road accidents are only caused by people who are able to move a vehicle but are not competent to be drivers. They just go and pick somebody who does not even know the code signs or the basics of driving to train them to drive and that is risky.”
Responding to these recommendations, the permanent secretary at the transport, Mod Ceesay said the ministry’s doors are open to engagement with all the stakeholders in the transport sector and advised the stakeholders to formally engage the ministry over the recommendations.
“I cannot state our position, the recommendations have to be formally submitted and we look into them to see how we could further explore the possibilities.”
The Police Traffic commissioner, Lamin King Colley said majority of road accidents in the country are as a result of lack of respect for traffic regulations. “The factors that lead to the accidents in this country are not about documentation but over speeding, dangerous and reckless driving. In fact, most of the people driving here have documents and are above the age but the issue is over speeding, they never respect the traffic signs.”
Colley added that the other best short cut to curb traffic accidents is to ensure there are speed bumps on all roads as is the case with the Barra- Amdalai road. “It has been year or more since we had accidents on that road because of the humps,” he said.