ROAD safety is a shared responsibility as everyone has an important part to play in ensuring the safety of every road user.
Pedestrians are on the receiving end as despite grappling with the sad reality of reckless driving, they also have to negotiate their way through poor road furniture.
It is unfortunate, however, that pedestrians continue being killed or injured while trying to cross the road at zebra crossings as speeding drivers deliberately ignore the law, simply because there is no traffic police officer in the vicinity.
Section 65 (10) of the Road Traffic Act orders drivers to stop before a zebra crossing on a carriageway which is not regulated by traffic lights, traffic signals or by a police officer whenever a pedestrian is using or is about to use a pedestrian crossing.
Unfortunately, most often motorists neither stop nor slow down when approaching pedestrian crossings. This contravening of pedestrian crossings laws is to blame for a chunky number of pedestrian deaths.
“Drivers must have a clear understanding of the pedestrian crossings law and also appreciate that they are not the only road users and must respect other users including pedestrians and cyclists,” says Mr Henry B antu, a member of the National Road Safety Committee.
Mr Abdul Mohamed, 47, a city driver, with over two decades driving experience says the biggest problem in Tanzanian cities is an almost complete absence of useable footpaths or pavements.
“You will find that most of our roads lack earmarked footpaths and the few roads which contain footpaths, such pavements are not pedestrian- friendly,” he says.
“When you go around our cities it is very hard to find even a stretch of pavement which is clear and usable. They are occupied by petty traders who display their products on the pavements, forcing the pedestrians to use the main road,” he laments.
“I have often witnessed incidents in which drivers are reckless, I have seen people nearly hit or I have also nearly been hit while crossing roads,” says a 32-year old, Husna Hussein, who works at Majengo Market in Dodoma.
The problem of accidentprone infrastructure is highlighted in the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report of 2017.
The report on the Performance audit on management of road furniture raises concern that ‘the needs of road users are not adequately considered when authorities plan for provision of roads furniture.’
It says the Tanzania National Roads Agency (TANROADS) overlooks the needs of vulnerable road users in the planning of roads and maintenance of road furniture, noting that the involvement of key stakeholders during planning of the roads is given less attention in most of the road projects.
Mr Daudi, a victim of a hit-and-run incident, feels that the crossings are not responsive to their needs, arguing that pedestrians tend only to use crossing facilities located very near to where they want to cross the road.
“Z ebra crossings are few and far along the roads; pedestrians have no option than to cross at unsafe places as most refuse to go the extra mile to the nearest designated zebra crossing,” says Daudi.
WHO Pedestrian Safety manual provides engineering, legal and educational solutions to pedestrian injuries and deaths. One of the most useful ways is the construction of sidewalks/footpaths sidewalks, which separate pedestrians from motorised vehicles as well as bicycles, during the planning and construction of roads.
Studies show that sidewalks improve both pedestrian safety and increase walking. Thus, pedestrian crashes decrease where there are sidewalks and raised medians.
A study conducted in the United States found that pedestrian crashes were more than twice as likely to occur at locations without sidewalks as would be expected on the basis of exposure.
The other measure is the enactment of Traffic laws aimed at controlling pedestrian and driver behaviour at intersections, crossings and other locations.
“Comprehensive legislation is a key element to pedestrian safety, but legislation alone is not likely to facilitate behaviour change in the absence of law enforcement and adequate penalties,” reads the manual.
“Driver and pedestrian should comply with laws critical to pedestrian safety – such as legal vehicle speed limits, drinking and driving regulations, red-light signal compliance and pedestrian traffic control signals and non-compliance should be met with sterner penalties,” adds the manual.
Alcohol-impaired drivers and pedestrians create injury risk for themselves and other road users, therefore strict legislation, followed by education and effective enforcement is necessary to curb the problem.
Mass campaigns informing the public about pedestrian safety laws and risk factors are necessary to improve driver and pedestrian behaviour and enhance understanding of traffic issues such as traffic signs and right-of-way for all road users.
Ms Mary K essi from WHO believes that pedestrian fatalities are a problem that can be fixed if authorities and other road safety stakeholders take on evidence- based multi-faceted approach.
She says that in line with the UN Global Road Safety Week (taking place between May 6-12), everyone should assume ‘Leadership for Road Safety’, noting that it is widely acknowledged that stronger leadership for road safety is needed to achieve Vision Z ero.
“To effect change, leadership is needed at many levels: global, national, municipal and community levels, and within various types of organisations, including governments, international agencies, NGOs, foundations, schools and universities, and private companies,” she says.
The goal of the 5th UN Global Road Safety Week is to generate a demand for stronger leadership for road safety worldwide to help achieve SDGs and other road safety targets, the WHO official says.