…..as crash stats decrease from between 2015 and 2016
Chairperson of the National Road Safety Council Eliphas !Owos-oab says re-aligning law enforcement agencies under one umbrella has the potential to significantly reduce road accident fatalities in Namibia.
In an interview with The Patriot, !Owos-oab said the current set up makes very difficult because despite the fact that all law enforcement agencies fighting for and promoting road safety they all report to different ministries and institutions.
“There is no coordination between RCC, the Namibian Police and City Police because we all report to different bodies,” said !Owos-oab.
According to !Owos-oab, having all law enforcement agencies under one umbrella body would save more lives because each agency would have access to one major database where they can share information especially of offenders and vehicles that are not road worthy.
Similarly, another aspect that is critical to road safety which can be attributed as reasons for the high number of road crashes in Namibia is the predictability of road blocks on the road.
According to official statistics from the MVA Fund, from 1 January 2016 to 11 December 2016, 3842 crashes were recorded which resulted in 6619 injuries and 662 fatalities. The statistics indicated a decrease when compared to the same period in 2015 when 4059 crashes were recorded. During that period, the crashes resulted in 7322 injuries and 674 fatalities.
According to !Owos-oab, the country has a problem of traditional spots for roadblock (like the one between Okahandja and Windhoek) that are set up in such a way that road users prepare themselves just to drive past them and start committing offences immediately after driving past.
“Our roadblocks must be unpredictable and must be placed at places where accidents are most likely to happen,” he said.
Moreover, !Owos-oab said it is high time that law enforcement agencies start paying more attention to road safety and commit resources to those areas that have been identified as accident prone.
“The Oshivelo-Omuthiya, Okahandja-Otjiwarongo and the Rehoboth-Mariental roads must all get extra attention because this is where most accidents happen,” added !Owos-oab.
!Owos-oab bemoaned government’s continuous manner of funding when it came to RCC and the Motor Vehicle accident fund. According him, funding more money to MVA than what RCC receives annually is an indication that government put more value to loss of life than saving it.
“We overfund the loss of life by giving MVA close to N$400million and underfunds saving of lives by giving RCC N$30million to operate on during a financial year,” lamented !Owos-oab
According to reports, on average 56 people have died every month since January on Namibian roads, mainly due to reckless driving and ignoring traffic regulations which translates 616 lives lost annually. For a country with a population of 2.5million, losing so many lives is too much according to him.
Additionally, one way that can help improve road safety in Namibia is by declaring it as a “state of emergency” according to!Owos-oab.
Furthermore, !Owos-oab said a system needs to be put in place that will categorise traffic offences into petty as well as serious offences to lift the burden off the Namibian road user.
Road safety campaigns have been ongoing for years now but there is yet to be any significant positive outcome hence the numbers of deaths directly linked to road crashes continue to increase.
Namibian roads have become notorious killing zones and are among the leading causes of death in the country to such an extent that some people do not travel anymore as it is safer to stay at home.
Research has established that Namibia far exceeds the African continental average of 26.6 fatalities per 100 000 persons, with a record high of 33.2 per 100 000 persons recorded in 2015.
However, it would be immature and un-Namibian to accept that the country has lost the battle against road accidents. More is still be done to reduce road accidents and subsequently the fatalities that come with according to !Owos-oab.
In his message for the road users during the coming festive season, !Owos-oab advised Namibians to adhere to road traffic rules and arrive safely to their respective destinations.
“Your life is in your own hands, so depart alive and make sure you arrive alive too,” advised !Owos-oab.
He also warned Namibians to avoid speeding and to shy away from driving while under the influence of alcohol.