Zambia is in mourning.
The tragic loss of life in the horrific accident in Chibombo will go down in history as one of the worst tragedies this country has suffered.
While it is debatable whether or not the accident could have been avoided, the reality of the loss will remain part of our heritage, from which we can hopefully learn a lesson.
Three aspects of this accident are very clear. There was careless driving, bad weather and of course speed. Combined the three elements produced the disaster.
We can do little about the weather except repeat the cliché admonishing drivers to take additional care in circumstances of incremental weather.
However a lot can be done concerning the remaining two factors, namely carelessness on the roads and speeding.
There is no doubt that one of the three drivers was travelling at high speed and was therefore unable to control his vehicle resulting the crash.
At the same time it is difficult to imagine at what speed the Post Bus was driving to have been at Chibombo around 07hrs. The management must certainly examine this aspect and consider satellite monitoring of the buses to ensure adherence to route and speed regulation. Drivers must know that they are under constant surveillance.
Carelessness is partly as a result of familiarity and sheer disregard of the rules of the road. This is becoming very prevalent. Drivers in Lusaka for example think it nothing to jump red lights, join roads without due care and simply violate every rule in the highway code.
The attitude among drivers has been reinforced by the equally casual approach that our traffic officers have adopted.
Roadblocks or traffic check points are now referred to as ATMs because motorists can get away with all manner of offences after paying ”lunch” to the officers. The practice is so prevalent that police controls have become a source of frustration and anger.
To make matters worse traffic officers in Lusaka often target mini bus drivers. This is done at very awkward hours and in equally awkward places. Impromptu road blocks result in huge traffic jams that annoy and confound road users.
It would be excusable if this was done for a good cause, which is not the case. Often times “impounded” mini buses are released on payment of informal fines.
The end result is that apart from the rare weekend blitz by the more serious RTSA officers roadblocks in town are a mere nuisance.
Instead of traffic officers unlocking the traffic snarl ups in the morning they are available to mount the roads checks when traffic is flowing smoothly.
Somehow a sense of purpose and responsibility has to be inculcated in the officers to ensure seriousness.
No doubt the Police command is aware of the antics of traffic officers, as there are even allusions of collusion: that money raised from ATMs is shared upwards.
There is need therefore for the command to take a more serious approach to the problem by perhaps considering un-orthodox means of trapping officers giving a bad name to the Police. The crime intelligence system must be employed to root out corruption and thereby reinforce proper traffic control
This must be accompanied by a more realistic road safety education campaign. The current campaign is insular and only visible during festive periods when full colour advertisements are splashed in the print media and sequences on television.
Education must be emphasized. Every effort must be made to ensure that all those on the road are given reminders of the Highway code.
Everything done to improve road safety is for a good cause.