By Lamin Njie
Ministry of Transport
Last week, the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, together with partners, concluded a long-week nationwide sensitization tour on road safety, with the sole aim of engaging drivers and other road users on how to prevent/mitigate road traffic accidents/crashes in our country’s roads.
Essa Drammeh, is the Director of Transport, at The Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure. In this exclusive interview with The Gambia Daily newspaper, he spoke on key pertinent issues confronting the Gambia’s transportation sector and the way forward. Take a read.
Q. What is your total impression of the recently concluded nationwide road safety sensitization tour organized by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure together with partners?
A. Overall, the tour was a success. Lots of communities and drivers were sensitized on road safety. The tour gave us the opportunity not only to sensitize on road safety but gave us the opportunity to know some of the key challenges facing the transport sector in the country.
How do you think we can have total safety on our roads?
We can only improve safety or minimize road traffic crashes or fatalities, but we can never eliminate road crashes. That’s why one of the key outputs of the tour is the sensitization of stakeholders in pre-hospital care by The Gambia Red Cross Society and which is very important. Lot of people especially the drivers and communities along the highway were sensitized on how to take care of accident victims when road crash occurred
What are some of the challenges in combating accidents/crashes on our roads?
There are lots of challenges in combating road accidents in The Gambia. We need to build the institutional capacity to deal with the menace, by setting up a dedicated road safety lead agency with clear legal and financial backing to manage road safety. At an individual level, we need behavioral change, especially in relation to major risk factors like speeding, drunk/drugged driving, and no use of a seat belt or helmet among others. We need to also put up systems for vehicle testing and driver certification or licensing. Our road network needs to be forgiving roads with facilities for pedestrians and other classes of vulnerable road users. Post-crash emergency response time needs to be improved to ensure that victims receive the needed care, especially the golden hour (an hour after the crash occurred). These are some of the challenges that need to be addressed if we are serious about tackling road traffic crashes.
What is the Ministry doing in order to see accident/crash-free Gambia?
The Ministry is doing a lot in improving road safety in the country despite the numerous challenges we are confronted with. We are performing the role of a lead agency for road safety in the country, but to perform these functions well, we need to set up a dedicated lead agency with clear mandates, which will be accountable for improving road safety in the country.
How about the Route Licensing. Is it achievable or not?
The process of operationalizing route licensing is steadily progressing. We issued permits to the operators shortly before the tour. We are aware of the fact that we need to do a lot of sensitization to get the buy-in of the relevant stakeholders, especially the drivers. As such, we intend to do massive sensitization during the month of November 2022
When do you want to start implementing it?
Hopefully, the scheme will be operational by the 1st December 2022
What are the benefits of the scheme?
The scheme will help to better organize operations in the road transport industry and will minimize the exploitation of passengers by the operators. The scheme will help to eliminate charging double or triple fares for one route
Will it be nationwide?
We intend to start it in the Greater Banjul and West Coast. Hopefully, the scheme will be rolled out to the rest of the country by next year, Insha’Allah.
What message do you have for the drivers with regard to Route Licensing?
I am urging all drivers to comply with the route licensing scheme, as it is in their best interest. If the road transport industry is organized, they tend to benefit more than anybody
Any comment for the general public with regard to road safety?
The number of road crash fatalities in The Gambia is increasing and the rate is unacceptable. Safety is everyone’s business, and as such, it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that we are safe on our roads.