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City of Banjul
Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The flaws in our traffic

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There is no dispute over the fact that a suitable means of transport is a necessity in our fast-growing world. I mean everyone or at least every household dreams of having its own convenient means of transport which is not actually bad but, how many of those are ready to give the art of driving its due? Road traffic accidents continue to claim the lives of many especially the young. The statistics keep giving us the shock of our lives yet, history keeps repeating itself. Perhaps, the time has come to dearly pay attention to the realities on the ground. It is not a battle to be left for just the traffic police rather, here is a battle for everyone who values LIFE!

Speaking of the striking statistics, according to the WHO, approximately 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic accidents (RTA). Narrowing down the statistics to our beloved Gambia, the WHO published data in 2018 ranked The Gambia as 4th in the world with regards to RTA related deaths, as the country registered 4.72% of total deaths.

Additionally, the commissioner of police mobile traffic had said that statistically, The Gambia registered its worst road accidents in 2020. “From the year 2000 to 2019, The Gambia registered 1,120 road accidents out of which 84 were fatal. In 2020 alone, The Gambia has registered 775 road accidents out of which 123 were fatal. If you look at these statistics, the country registered its worst road traffic accidents in 2020”, King Colley said. I hope these alarming figures have stirred an interest in you to tighten your waist belt in the combat against road traffic accidents.

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What does a road traffic accident mean?

In simple terms, a road traffic accident is defined as a collision involving a vehicle on a road or in a public area that has caused damage or injury to a person, animal, another vehicle, or property. Anyone can be a victim of a road traffic accident whether as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, cyclist, or even those riding on horses and donkeys.

Road traffic accidents cause considerable losses to victims and their families, as well as the country at large. These vary from loss of lives and/or property, time invested in caring for victims, to the economic crises of treatment involved in severe injuries. RTAs cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product, according to the WHO.

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Common causes of road traffic accidents

There are a number of risk factors that lead to road traffic accidents all of which cannot be listed herein. However, below is an enumeration of the most common causes that sometimes send us into mourning for our loved ones:

            Overspeeding: The impact of over speeding on RTAs cannot be overemphasized. There is a speed limit applicable in different situations but certain drivers barely pay any regard to this. Many would give the excuse of being in a hurry but it’s better to arrive late than to arrive injured or dead. A word for the wise they say is quite sufficient.

            Driving under the influence alcohol or abusive substances: Driving remains an art for the stable minded. The technicalities and concentration needed could only be given by someone who is sober enough. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is nothing sort of a civilized form of suicide.

            Distracted driving: Distractions definitely come in various forms. It could be over thinking on something whilst driving, losing oneself in a conversation, or even being glued to a mobile phone. Mobile phones especially increase the risk of RTAs and might considerably affect one’s ability to apply brakes, pay attention to traffic signs, or even maintain the correct lane.

            Inadequate enforcement of traffic laws: Putting laws in place is one side of the story but actually enforcing the said laws is definitely the other. The wearing of seat-belts or helmets, adherence to speed limits, improper U-turns etc are traffic laws that shouldn’t be compromised come what may. Traffic users shouldn’t be allowed to perceive that traffic laws are fragile for this becomes the beginning of reckless driving. Until laws are enforced, they lack the ability to influence the behaviors of the people.

            Attitude of traffic users: Our day-to-day traffic isn’t just about the traffic polices and the vehicle drivers; it extends by far to pedestrians, passengers, cyclists, motorists, etc. Even the petty traders by the road sides are not exempted. Every user of the road has a part to play and at some point, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to be “self appointed” traffic polices in an effort to save lives. We must realize that abiding by traffic rules and regulations is for the safety of ourselves and not the traffic police. As the saying clearly states, “the life you save might be your own”.

            Road conditions: Inconvenient roads such as those with potholes have their fair share of contribution towards road traffic accidents. The government should definitely look into this and communities within their own capacity should equally give a helping hand for the betterment of all.

Consequences of road traffic accidents

As earlier mentioned, RTAs come along with consequences to victims and the country at large whether directly or indirectly. If we are to be fair enough, even eye witnesses of fatal accidents are affected to a certain degree. Some of these consequences are as follows:

            Fatality: Fatal accidents leave their marks in the lives of many families for years or even for a lifetime. A life is precious and if we could just prevent or at least decrease to a great extent the loss of lives due to RTAs, then we could be proud to say we’ve achieved a lot. Fatal accidents do claim lives such as those of pregnant women and innocent children, and anyone would agree with me that these leave the family of victims in the arena of psychological trauma for a very long time. This indirectly has an impact on the country’s health status.

            Injury: Sometimes, RTAs might not necessarily be fatal but they could leave victims with serious injuries that deteriorate the quality of their lives. Some might be lucky to get treatment and take another chance at life but others have no choice than to remain handicapped for the rest of their lives. This in itself is a psychological trauma that is worth avoiding by all means.

            Economic losses: In our part of the world, we’re accustomed to the idea of a bread winner and when the bread winner is lost or even handicapped, it takes a toll on an entire family. Furthermore, whatever revenue this person was generating for the country equally becomes history all due to RTA. The cost input of treatment is equally worth considering.

Preventive measures of road traffic accidents

Putting in measures to tackle RTAs is a collective responsibility to which no one is an exception. It is not a task to be limited to one group whilst the other only keeps playing a blame game. Therefore, the following points must be given due consideration:

            Education and awareness: Speaking up has and will always remain an essential tool to reach out to as many people as possible. We must be willing to take advantage of every opportunity given to educate someone about RTAs and their numerous consequences. Charity begins at home so sensitization should actually begin within our families first and then to the general public. Your speaking up might save the next life on the line!

            Strict enforcement of traffic laws: To our esteemed traffic polices, our safety has been entrusted in your hands so please, don’t stand by and watch us perish. We count on you to license the right people, allow the right vehicles, reprimand the defaulters, and protect us to the best of your abilities. Your integrity and honesty is invaluable in tackling road traffic accidents.

            Change of attitude: To every road user, we are supposed to be in this together! Defaulting traffic laws just because you can and would probably get away with it only portrays a poor mindset. You might not be the direct victim, but someone you love may pay the price of your recklessness. So please, let’s do what is expected of us in traffic and politely correct one another when there is a need. Anger and bashing one another has barely ever been a solution.

To conclude, we must all be vigilant and refrain from being abusers of “it is/was an accident”. Frankly enough, some of these “accidents” are simply results of carelessness and could be avoided with the right measures put in place. It all begins with US as a nation!

“Your right to want to drive a vehicle comes with a responsibility to do it well.”

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