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When speed cuts short many blossoming dreams

“WHAT is going on?” I desperately shouted as if I was asking someone, but no one was there to give the answers.

I continued to lay on the bed motionless and in a state of shock as I could not believe what I had just read on my mobile phone. For a moment, I wished this could just be a dream of which I would wake up to the reality that it wasn’t true.

But alas, it was real. Still dumfounded, devastated, I read through a barrage of messages that had been posted on a new WhatsApp group with a shocking title ‘Shadrack Sagati’s funeral’ with a profile clip of Mr Shadrack, of which I had been made one of the administrators.

It slowly and painfully sank in my mind that what I was reading was true. Still in a state of shock at around 6.15 am on the 31st July, I promptly dialed the founder of the group, Mr Benjamin Thompson and asked.

“What is going on here?” But this time there was someone to give the answers. “Our dear friend Sagati is no more. He was involved in an accident last evening,” replied Mr Thompson.

I was dumfounded and devastated for a moment. “What a bad news; I cannot believe it! Just yesterday we were cracking jokes?” I remarked.

The confirmation of Sagati’s death did not only break my heart, but kept resonating in my mind while trying to come to terms with the sad truth that my former workmate, colleague and friend was no more.

The sudden death of Sagati was difficult to accept and sent shock waves through the media fraternity. He died after a Toyota Land Cruiser V8 station wagon he was travelling in with other officials of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment overturned at Mintoko Village in Geita Region on July 30.

The driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle while trying to avoid pedestrians on the road as he was speeding in a bid to make sure that the delegation catches a flight in Mwanza. Sagati, who until his unfortunate death was a senior public relations officer with the ministry, succumbed to fatal injuries he had sustained during the accident.

His blossoming life was prematurely cut short. It was so sad that a committed scribe, who always maintained professionalism and dedicated part of his life fighting against road crashes, would also die in a road accident.

As a Road Safety fellow, Sagati wrote many articles on road safety issues. He was, in fact, the best fellow when the programme was first launched in 2016.

The passing on of the talented journalist was indeed a major blow to road safety initiatives. Sagati played a significant role in educating the nation about road safety.

With the pain of Sagati’s passing on still fresh among media practitioners, hardly a week later another similar road accident claimed the life of a young photographer Hamza Temba.

Temba died on the spot after another Toyota Land Cruiser taking Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Dr Khamis Kigwangallah from Arusha to Dodoma overturned when the driver evaded a giraffe at Magugu area in Manyara Region.

The Minister sustained serious injuries including a twice-broken arm and a couple of broken ribs and spent weeks in hospital. Many more precious lives have been lost on our roads this year owing to speeding.

Statistics show that at least 37 people, mostly government employees, died so far this year with around 90 injured in road crashes involving State-owned vehicles.

The year 2018 will probably go down as one that posted a big number of fatal accidents involving government cars. Speed the main cause According to the Head of the Legal Department at the Traffic Headquarters Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Deus Sokoni, most of these accidents are caused by speeding.

“Speed is one of the major factors contributing to accidents that involve government vehicles and private cars,” reveals Sokoni, noting that private cars top the country’s accidents chart.

Researchers believe that speeding is a calculated behaviour where the driver has knowledge over it but still ignores its dangers. Mr Sokoni says excess and inappropriate speed is responsible for a high proportion of the mortality and morbidity that result from road crashes.

“Controlling vehicle speed can prevent crashes from occurring and can reduce the impact when they do occur, lessening the severity of injuries sustained by the victims,” he says.

In response to the worrying trend of crashes involving public vehicles, Home Affairs Minister, Kangi Lugola, slammed public vehicle drivers for setting up bad example in traffic offences.

“Government drivers flout traffic rules at will, and most of them speed while their superiors just look on without warning them,” claimed the Minister when launching the National Road Safety Council.

Mr Lugola believes that government officials should be role models in obeying national laws and drive safely in order to reduce unnecessary road accidents due to speeding.

“Public leaders must be speed governors of their drivers; they must be watchdogs of traffic rules; I have given traffic officers the mandate to take action according to the law,’’ he said.

Speed and accidents Speed has been identified as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries; influencing both the risk of a road crash as well as the severity of the injuries that result from crashes.

Chairman of Safespeed Foundation, Mr Henry Bantu says controlling vehicle speed can prevent crashes happening and can reduce the impact when they do occur, lessening the severity of injuries sustain by the victims.

“The higher the speed of the vehicle the shorter the time a driver has to stop and avoid a crash,” says Mr Bantu, ex-Chief Tutor at the National Institute of Transport (NIT).

According to vehicle experts, a car travelling at 50km/h will require 13 meters to stop, while a car travelling at 40km/h will stop in less than 8.5meters.

An increase in average speed of 1km/h typically result in a 3 percent higher risk of a crash involving injury with a 4.5 percent increase for crashes that result in fatalities.

Speed also contributes to the severity of the impact when a collision does occur. For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80km/h the likelihood of death is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30km/h.

Road Traffic law gaps in relation to speed Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Programme Officer - Government and Parliament Engagement (Law Reforms), Advocate Mackphason Buberwa says speed limit is provided for both in the RoadTraffic Act and the Road Act 2007, but only to a limited extent for certain areas and categories of motor vehicles.

In Tanzania, there are three general speed limits stipulated by law: According to Section 51 of the Road Traffic Act of 1973, the speed limit for vehicles with more than 3.5 tonnes is 80 km/h.

For lorries and buses, the general speed limit on all road types, except on urban roads, is 80 km/h. In built-up areas, the speed limit is according to the Act 50 km/h for all vehicles but may occasionally locally be set at 60 km/h.

One of the main concerns expressed by Road safety stakeholders is the lack of a maximum speed limit for private cars and vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, outside built-up areas.

They argue that the standard of the road network outside the main urban areas, in the main, is not designed to be driven at high speeds. “From a road safety prospective, a maximum speed limit for all private cars should be set,” says SUMATRA Road Safety and Environment Manager, Mr Geoffrey Silanda. He says there is a clear need for a detailed review of the current speed limits to ensure they comply with internationally accepted road safety standards.

“A maximum speed limit for private cars using the network outside an urban limit should also be created; this is recommended to be a maximum of 100 km/h,” adds Mr Silanda.

The WHO has identified a number of interventions that can be taken to manage the adverse effects of speed. These include building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic.

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Author: ABDALLAH MSUYA

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