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FACES BEHIND THE FIGURES OF ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS: EMBRACING ROAD SAFETY AS A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

Behind every road traffic crash statistic, there are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandchildren, colleagues, classmates and friends whose lives are changed forever. For every severe crash, survivors, relatives and friends can suffer physical, psychological, emotional and economic devastation.

 To those numbers of over 1,690 people that died due to road traffic accidents last year, there are over 1,690 corresponding families that had to face the devastating grief with many lives being affected.

Despite the road safety profile of the country improving, there is still more that needs to be done to reduce the numbers to zero accident rate. Therefore, our first thought when discussing road safety should be the over 1, 000 plus people that die from road traffic accidents each year. As road users, we need to put a face to these figures and begin to act now and stop the scourge.  The fate of accident victims need to take center stage. They must be at the forefront of our minds, a constant concern to be addressed, in the way that the HIV/AIDS pandemic rightly was and continues to be addressed.

The more than 1,000 people that die on the Zambian roads every year deserve a legacy in the form of promoting road safety in Zambia and making road safety as a national public health concern whose action must be urgent and prioritized by all road safety stakeholders. We should all induce the personal drive to tackle the road safety pandemic we are witnessing. A fitting memorial to accidents victims would be to learn lessons from their fate and act to reduce the number of future victims. Let’s also not forget the thousands others who are left with physical and mental scars, the suffering of friends and families, the loss to the economy and simply to human achievements.

Who knows what the late Minister of Home Affairs Minister Luckson Mapushi and governance activist Professor Alfred Chanda could have contributed to the governance of this country. Great musicians Brian Chilala, P. Jay, Alubusu, gospel musician Mark from B3, and David Phiri (Daev) contributions to the music industry were cut short due to road accidents. A young promising footballer Changwe Kalala sustained injuries and ultimately died due to a road traffic accident that also cut short the footballing career for 2012 Africa Cup winning defender Nyambe Mulenga. The young Kalinda Havula, the St. Joseph’s pupil who in 2020 died in a road traffic accident in Monze on her way to Livingstone after writing her grade 12 examination scored six points after the results were announced this year.

Just like Kalinda, so many other people have died prematurely due to road traffic accidents that could have been avoided.   They might have gone on to transform their communities had they lived.

It’s important to remember the individual stories behind the statistics. If we can do that, we will have taken the first step towards envisaging a better road safety profile for Zambia.

Although the figures make a grim reading, a substantial amount of positive change is already underway. In effect, we are in a strong position to act as we have identified a lot of the solutions and have noted their impact. Equally as important though are the changes in the international road safety context that have taken place in the last decade or so. A lot of invaluable work has been done to build international support and to develop the global road safety road map that is necessary to make a real difference. But that will only translate into the everyday lives of ordinary Zambian citizens if all stakeholders get involved.

Civil society also has an important part to play in campaigning for road safety. This is an agenda that we all need to take ownership of, and individual citizens and organisations should all come to fore. Survivors of crashes and the families of victims are in a unique position as they can bear witness; as we fight to make road safety a national priority, it is important that we hear their voices too.

If we keep building these networks, mobilizing government, the private sector, NGOs and the general public, we can make a real difference, especially as we have learned over a period of years which approaches are likely to work. We also have solid data concerning features that vastly enhance road safety.

Call for action

The road traffic accident pandemic demands a response. We hope that individuals, organizations and all road safety stakeholders can join the Road transport and safety Agency (RTSA) in raising public awareness, capture media attention and influencing political leaders to take a proactive roles in road safety and encouraging financial investment in road safety initiatives.

Time to deliver road safety

Each one of us is invited to stand up and make a promise towards promoting road safety. All individuals are encouraged to participate in road safety education and make a pledge to:

Not cause an accident today and do harm to others;

Be kind, patient and have regard for all road users;

Not drink alcohol or use cellphone while driving;

Observe speed limits;

Report all broken down vehicles that are a hazard and traffic violations to RTSA 983 toll free line;

Use the seat belt and child safety seat; and

Commit to zero road accidents on Zambian roads.

Remember, there are diverse human faces behind the impressive and sometimes complex statistical models found in road safety documents. The stories are shattering effects of road traffic crashes and to the emotional and economic costs they impose on families and communities within and around us. Excessive speed, alcohol or drug impairment, poor road infrastructure and traffic management, poor vehicle safety and non-use of seat-belts or helmets highly result in serious injury or death. Together, we can save lives. Be road smart life is precious. 

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